This post is phase two of creating a great cover letter. It utilizes an actual vacancy announcement to take you step-by-step through the process of analyzing the announcement to determine if your background is a good fit for the position in which you are interested. Please visit often for new posts as we take you through our (five) step process.
In my first post on writing a great cover letter, I promised to share with you how I keep my job search organized. First, you can probably tell that I do not like a lot of paper so I started out using an Excel spreadsheet which I created. It became too time-consuming to maintain so I developed an Access database which also became to time-consuming to maintain. Too much paper and the lack of an effective organization strategy not only clutters my surroundings, but my thoughts as well, and it reduces accessibility. My current strategy mostly requires me to drag files from one location to another, or to save a file to a new location. Let me share, with you, my seven (7) fool-proof secret steps to maintaining an organized job search:
- First, I create a folder in Gmail, Outlook, etc. called Job Search and the year (i.e., CBO job search 2016);
- I then create sub folders under the Job Search parent folder (i.e., Announcements applied to; Announcements to apply to; Phone Interviews; In-Person Interviews; Remove from Consideration; Resumes, Offers, etc.);
- When I see an announcement that I want to apply to, or think that I want to apply to, I copy the entire announcement and paste it into the body of a blank email and send it to myself. This enables me to easily access the details of the position from anywhere. Nothing makes you feel less prepared as a job seeker than to receive that long-awaited call from a potential employer and not have ready access to the vacancy announcement that provides the details of the job that you are interested in. I have received phone calls from recruiters and was unable to readily locate the vacancy announcement that they expected me to be able to discuss intelligently. Although it was not their intention to do so, I became nervous and did not perform as well as I would have with the relevant information in front of me;
- When I complete the application process for a position that I have placed in the “To Apply to” folder, I pull the announcement into the “Applied to” folder;
- I review the “To Apply to” folder at least once per week and I delete any announcement that been in that folder for more than two (2) weeks and I have not applied to it. Lets face it, we don’t get to apply to every position that peaks our interest. My weekly review of this folder allows me to read the announcement again, with a clear mind to determine if it is really an opportunity that I would like to pursue.
- Any announcement that I have applied to and have not heard from in six(6) months is deleted from the “Applied To” folder.
- I maintain a flash drive with all versions of my resume (Chronological, Functional, Federal, etc.) as my cover letters for the jobs to which I have applied. I also email updated versions to myself in case my flash drive goes missing or gets damaged.
Try this process and see won’t it make keeping track of your job search progress much easier. Email me at email@example.com and let me know what you think. Until next time…Here’s to your job hunting success!
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Hello everyone. Today’s post continues our journey to career search success…writing a great cover letter. While some may advise that this step to landing your dream job is unnecessary, I emphatically suggest that it is absolutely essential. As a Human Resources professional, I compare submitting your resume in response to a vacancy announcement without an accompanying cover letter to having a birthday party with no cake. Some people are intimidated by the thought of writing a cover letter, but the process does not have to be stressful. The cover letter is your chance to present your written business case to your potential future employer to prove to them that they need you on their team. We will walk through this tried and true process that will end with your having crafted a captivating cover letter. Here are the six steps to do just that:
- Pick the four most-impactful duty statements;
- Explain how your background matches the duty statements;
- Research the hiring organization;
- Express your unique knowledge, skills, and abilities that distinguish you from the other applicants;
- Draft cover letter;
- Use your closing to express your continued interest and to ask for the job.
You may be wondering how to determine the four most impactful duty statements. In order to accomplish this task, you must study the vacancy announcement, and believe it or not, it is not very difficult. You see, duty statements are typically listed in vacancy announcements from the most important, down to the least important. As with any other “rule,” there are definitely exceptions to this one. Also, if you have worked in the career field for which you are aspiring, you likely already have a good idea of which duties are the most-positively-impactful to the organization as well as to your career success. While this may not be true in every instance, it is true more often than not. I think that you will agree that a highly-impactful duty statement for an Accountant might be to analyze Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that contain financial data, but ordering office supplies most likely would not be highly-impactful duty statement.
My initial review of the vacancy announcement is to get a feel for how closely the employer’s expectations match my expectations, as a potential employee, regarding the duties that I would like to perform. If I am still interested after the initial review, I conduct my own job analysis of sorts. I begin by highlighting the top four duty statements. You can accomplish this by printing a hard copy of the announcement and using a traditional highlighter to mark the top four most-important ones. Another way to accomplish the same task is to use a soft copy of the vacancy announcement in Microsoft Word or Adobe, and utilize the respective highlight tool to mark the top four duty statements. You can also insert comments (i.e., on which job(s) you gained relevant experience; how many years relevant experience you possess, etc.). Once you complete your review and make notes, you can either save it to a flash drive, to the cloud, or email it to yourself. You can also save it to your computers hard drive, but that would limit its accessibility in case of a telephone interview at a time during which you are unable to access your computer. If you are like me and not only want to reduce the number of trees killed each year; but also want to have access to your documents from any device when needed, this will quickly become your preferred method of preserving the document related to your job search. In a later post I will share another little tip to help you keep your job announcements organized when you email them to yourself.
Now you are ready to move on to step two (2) of matching your experience to the job requirements and explaining how your background has prepared you for such an opportunity. So my challenge to you before my next post is to select a vacancy announcement that you would like to apply to. Follow the steps in this post to identify the top four duty statements and to determine how your background has prepared your position of interest. My next post will detail how to develop concise explanations that relate directly to the duty statements that you have identified as the most-impactful.
Until then…here’s to successful cover letter writing!
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Hello everyone. Welcome to Installment II of my recommendations for moving seamlessly through your career search process. The post just previous to this one encouraged you to paint a mental picture of your perfect job. I recommended that exercise because once you can envision yourself having attained success, you are much more prepared, and motivated, to live out the blessing. You will subsequently want to take the necessary steps to fill in the missing parts to get to the reality of that end result because it is now possible. You may be fresh out of technical training, college/university, grad school, or post graduate school. You may be newly-unemployed, underemployed, or still employed and just need to make a change. No matter your circumstance, you need to market yourself…and do it effectively to get your desired results. In order to do that, you need to craft a well-written, expressive, visually-appealing, and truthful resume or curriculum vitae…the two major written marketing tools that career searchers use to showcase their professional and educational backgrounds, community involvement, research, published articles, professional memberships, certifications, etc., as well as hobbies/interests. This document will be the vehicle that puts your unique knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics in front of potential employers. This is why you must put time and thought into it and take care to ensure its integrity and quality.
Although many people use the terms, resume and curriculum vitae, interchangeably, each possesses its own distinguishing characteristics. In order to decide which document format will serve your career search best, you need to know their respective uniqueness. For starters, the curriculum vitae, aka CV or vita, is the format that educators, graduate students, professors, researchers, student interns/externs, etc. use most often. The goal of the curriculum vitae is to establish you as an accomplished subject matter expert in your field of expertise through the detailed descriptive presentation of directly-related work experience; articles written and published; research conducted; conference presentations; white papers; scholarly awards; dissertations, etc. The curriculum vitae is more likely than a resume to contain your photo, date and place of birth; as well as other identifying characteristics, whereas a resume will not. It is typically very detailed and painstakingly tailored to the academic, or a closely-related, profession. As a result, it is often considerably longer than a typical resume. Naturally, you will list your name, mailing address, and contact information, including your email address at the top of your CV. Unlike the typical resume, a CV also includes a head shot photo. Your carefully-crafted objective should immediately follow your contact information. Some conventional career search wisdom recommends that you tailor your objective to the position for which you are applying; however, I think that if you put some thought into the process, you can develop an effective objective that can be used repeatedly, and with little to no, revision…regardless of the position to which you are applying. The next section might contain your date of birth, and/or marital status. Your current career stage determines what comes next on your CV. If you are relatively young in your career (i.e., five (5) years or less, you should list your educational credentials first). When you are newer in your career, you need to use your formal training and research projects to show that you have relevant experience. If you have more than five (5) years experience in your career field, you should generally list your professional experience first. There is something special about the five (5) year mark in your career. It seems that at that point, you have have successfully completed orientation. You have paid your “entry-level dues.” Regardless of which you list first, education or experience, you list them in reverse chronological order. When listing your education, you should include the college(s)/university(s) you earned degrees from; the level of degree (Associate, Bachelor, Master, PhD, etc.); the program concentration (Business, English, Math, Pre-Med, Psychology, Science, Technology, etc.); as well as the year that you attained the degree. When listing your professional experience, I suggest finding a summary that is a happy medium between concise and descriptive. Although, the length of the CV is not as much as a concern as with the traditional resume, you still don’t want to CV to be exhaustive. My recommendation is that you choose the top five most-impactful accomplishments from each position that you have held and develop and concise summary statement of each that someone who is familiar with you career field would immediately recognize the value of. Once you complete these two sections you will be ready to move on to listing your additional training, independent research, publications, speaking engagements, etc. You should also develop a list of at least five (5) relevant professional references who have first-hand knowledge of the quality of your work and your work habits. Most employers require at least three (3) so a couple extra will be nice to have. Include the name, Job title, their current employer or the name of their business if they are an entrepreneur, how you and the person are professionally connected, how long you have known each other, their contact information including telephone number and email address. Even if you do not submit this document during your initial application, I suggest that the format be compatible with your curriculum vitae’s format. Small steps such as this will begin to build your brand and ultimately distinguish you from other candidates. In addition, when a potential employer asks for your references, they will see that you believe in being prepared when you provide the requested information so quickly.
The resume is just as important in the non-educational and non-research career field job search process; however, as I mentioned earlier, the length of a resume is more of a consideration than it is with a curriculum vitae. The goal of the resume is to provide a concise summary of your professional and educational backgrounds. It is typically no more than two (2) pages long, unless you have achieved more than twenty years experience in your career field, and does not contain your photo or any other personal information such as date of birth, nationality, family/marital status, etc. This is why, as you build your resume, consider that you have about ten (10) seconds to catch the hiring decision-maker’s attention with either a relevant, unique characteristic or skill set that you possess; or the exact characteristics and skill set that they need on their team. It is imperative, therefore, that you actively describe your experience. By this, I mean use action verbs, such as developed, effected, initiated, identified, recommended, resolved…you get the picture. Don’t just state your assigned duties, but list your respective accomplishments on each job; describe a challenge that you faced and how you met the challenge. Even if you were not fully successful at conquering the challenge, you can show that you are dedicated; that you are passionate; that you are resourceful; that you have self confidence and integrity; and that you are a problem-solver and an out-of-the box thinker. These are all qualities that most potential employers are looking for in new team members. This is why, first and foremost, you should make certain that the contents of your resume are a truthful representation of your professional and educational accomplishments. The last thing you want is to have a potential employer question your integrity. If that happens, you will be fighting an uphill battle throughout the selection process, and will likely have a slim chance of being selected as their candidate of choice.
In order to stand out from the crowd, you must address the knowledge, skills and abilities that the vacancy announcement indicates are needed to successfully perform the duties assigned to your position of interest. I suggest that you carefully study the vacancy announcement, pick out the four (4) or five (5) most-important duty statements, and make certain that your resume shows work experience that allowed you to develop those qualifications. Because the duties are typically listed in order of importance to the employer, from most to least important, it is usually not difficult to accomplish this task. For example, if a vacancy announcement requires someone with strong budgeting skills, you should concisely emphasize how you saved your current or former employer “X” number of dollars thanks to your budgeting skills. If a vacancy announcement asks for effective communications skills, you should highlight the employee newsletter that you use to keep staff informed on work-related topics of interest; or that you interact daily with executive management team members to inform them of any issues of concern regarding organizational performance, competitors’ activities, developing strategy, etc. If you are interested in a sales career you should emphasize how you exceeded target sales each year as a sales associate or manager. If you are interested in a skilled trades career, emphasize how you have used your training and experience to perfect your skill and list some noteworthy projects that you have worked on. If the position of interest asks for strong computer literacy, you should describe the electronic filing system that you developed and/or the Access database that you built to track inventory, customers, or to track projects. Also describe spreadsheets that you use to do your work and the graphs and pie charts that you use to present business statistics at each monthly management meeting. If you are a student and are newly entering the job market, use relevant coursework to describe experience that you have gain during your college career. Use internships, part-time jobs, course projects, and volunteer opportunities to make your case. These are just a few examples of how you can describe your relevant work, professional exposure, and/or educational experience to show that you have what it takes to do the job. Just as with the vitae, be mindful of the strongest part of your background. If you have more education and training related to your field of interest, you might want to list your education and training first on your resume. If you have more hands-on experience than education in your chosen career field, then list your professional experience on your resume first. As with the curriculum vitae, you should also develop a list of professional references that includes the same information as suggested earlier in this article and formatted compatibly with your resume’s format for professional brand consistency.
Ask a couple of people who you know to have strong reading comprehension and writing abilities, to proof your “vitae” and your reference list. I urge you to not skip this step because a fresh set of eyes can catch needed changes that you may miss because you have looked at the document so much. Make any necessary changes and begin writing your cover letter, which will be the focus of my next post. If you need more help in creating a great curriculum vitae or resume, visit Purdue University’s on-line writing lab at Job Search Writing. This is a resource-rich site that provides examples of job search documents.
Now celebrate because you are two-thirds of the way to being ready to begin applying for that new career opportunity. Congratulations!
Image Compliments of Google Image Search.