That all-important Cover Letter — Make it stand out

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(Reprinted from the Courier-Post – April 3, 2016)

BY MATT TARPEY

CAREERBUILDER

Writing a résumé can be tricky, but it seems like a walk in the park compared with writing a cover letter.

What’s the secret? Here are five tricks to writing a standout cover letter — and getting it noticed by hiring managers.

  1. Get rid of the fluff.

A cover letter gives you the opportunity to speak more expansively than you can on a résumé or application form, but there are still limits.

Remember, hiring managers aren’t obligated to read your cover letter — it’s up to you to grab their interest.

“Keep it concise and focus on areas of your background that are connected to the opportunity,” says Allie Basilica, social media director at Atrium Staffing. “Recruiters (and) managers rarely look at résumés and cover letters for more than one or two minutes.

“Often when people are trying to sell themselves, they use more verbose language than they ever would in another setting,” she says. “Most positions in the business world require candidates who are succinct and efficient, and a wordy cover letter portrays the opposite message.”

  1. Tell them something new.

If your cover letter doesn’t add anything that hiring managers couldn’t find on your résumé, then it’s not worth their time or yours. “Use the cover letter as an opportunity to sell attributes that would make you a good fit for the position you are applying for that cannot be seen with a quick glance at your résumé,” Basilica says.

This is your chance to make the case for why you are the best fit for the position. Connect the dots laid out on your résumé, and give examples of how you’ve implemented the skills necessary for the job and the results you’ve attained from past experiences.

  1. Research the company.

Personalizing your cover letter means more than just replacing the company name. It’s important to tie the skills and experience listed on your résumé to the position you’re applying for — and to do that, you need to know something about the company.

“Demonstrate that you’ve done your research,” says Trevor Simm, founder and president of OpalStaff and Talos Solutions. “Take some time to thoughtfully review the company’s website and media coverage to get a feel for its solutions, services, culture and operations, and then find a way to reference this in your cover letter as a reason you are the perfect fit for the job.”

  1. Don’t make it just about you.

Another key difference between a résumé and a quality cover letter is the focus. Your résumé should be all about you — the skills you’ve acquired and the results you’ve achieved. Your cover letter, on the other hand, should tie it back to the company and explain how you can address its specific needs.

“Focus on how the company will benefit from your expertise and not (on) selling yourself,” Simm suggests. “Your cover letter should show how you’re a skilled and qualified candidate, but it’s more important to explain what value you bring to the company. Avoid using ‘I’ or ‘me,’ and instead (share) how you’ll provide solutions for the company’s challenges.

Doing this will illustrate why you’re the best candidate for the job without you having to explicitly say so.”

  1. Take your time.

Above all, it’s important to be patient and careful when writing your cover letter. “Avoid being in a rush to send off a letter,” says Crystal Olivarria, a writer for CareerConversationalist. com, an online community and resource center for students. “Your cover letter is often the first impression a potential employer has of you.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Take the time to do it right.”

Matt Tarpey is a writer for the Advice & Resources section on CareerBuilder.com. He researches and writes about job-search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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Uncommon, but well-paying jobs

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Matt Tarpey of CareerBuilder.com’s column appeared in the Courier-Post on March 6, 2015. Here is a summary of “eight less-than common occupations that offer competitive salaries”:

1. Astronomers – 2015 Jobs = 1,945/Average hourly earnings=$52.48

2. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists – 2015 jobs =2,105/Average hourly earning = $20.15

3. Genetic counselors – 2015 jobs = 2,451/Average hourly earnings = $34.33

4. Theatrical and performance makeup artists – 2015 jobs = 2,752/Average hourly earnings = $31.47

5. Historians – 2015 jobs = 3,407/Average hourly earnings = $29.45

6. Commercial divers – 2015 jobs = 3,519/Average hourly earnings = $24.19

7. Transit and railroad police – 2015 jobs = 3,902/Average hourly earnings = $25.53

8. Broadcast news analysts – 2015 jobs = 4,316/Average hourly earnings = $39.19

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What, No job offer after the interview?

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(This summary comes from “CareerBuilder’s” Susan Ricker. Full story in Courier-Post on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015.)

     Getting called in for an interview is a positive sign — it usually means that your resume’, cover letter and reputation made a good impression on the hiring manager and he/she would like to have a more in-depth conversation with you about your experience.

     However, if you are getting a lot of interviews, but no job offers, there are some red flags to watch for. Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure your next interview is a success.

1. Do your application materials match your personality?

2. Did you prepare well enough for the interview? (Check out No. 23 on http://larrylitwin.com/handouts.html.)

3. Is your body language (facial coding — See Larry’s The ABCs of Strategic Communication) sending the wrong message?

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Be prepared for 3 toughest interview questions

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(From Susan Ricker at “CareerBuilder. Read her entire article in the Courier-Post — Aug. 30, 2015)

1. Why are you leaving your current job, or why are you currently unemployed?

2. What is your greatest weakness?

3. Where do you see yourself in five years? (Be careful with this one, especially. You may not want to say “at a large New York City agency if you are applying for a job in Philadelphia.)

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Are you ready for your interview?

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(Portions taken from John Rossheim’s Philadelphia Inquirer “Monster” article.

1. Explore prospective employer’s websites

2. Use search engines to read the latest news about the organization.

3. Visit trade journals.

4. Use networking sources to contact current employees to help determine if prospective employer would be a good fit.

5. Since you have already Googled the prospective employer, be certain to Google yourself. Your prospective is Googling you so you had better know what’s online about YOU.

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8 words and phrases you should eliminate from your resume

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According to Monster contributing editor Catherine Conlan, “they’ll make your resume stand out – but not in a good way.”

Eliminate these words and phrases:

  • Results-oriented
  • High technical aptitude
  • Ninja, rockstar and other quirky titles
  • Assisted
  • Strong work ethic
  • Disruptive, cutting-edge and other trendy objectives
  • Self-starter
  • Detail-oriented

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Tips for trimming your resume’

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From CareerBuilders’ Debra Auerbach come these tips:

  1. Remove outdated professional experience
  2. Condense the professional experience that’s left
  3. Summarize or remove details under Education or Activities sections

Debra Auerbach is a writer for the Advice & Resources section of CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management and hiring trends.

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Soft skills companies want in their job prospects

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Thanks to CareerBuilder’s Susan Rickler for this.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, companies say the 10 most popular soft skills they look for when hiring are: (Think about using these keys in your cover letter and/or resume.)

  • Strong work ethic (73 percent)
  • Dependability (73 percent)
  • Positive attitude (72 percent)
  • Self-motivation (66 percent)
  • Team-oriented (60 percent)
  • Organization and multitasking (57 percent)
  • Performing under pressure (57 percent)
  • Effective communication (56 percent)
  • Flexibility (51 percent)
  • Confidence (46 percent)

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Post interview Thank-You Note

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Matt Tarpey of “CareerBuilder” stresses the importance of the follow-up Thank-You Note. “Following up a job interview with a personalized thank-you note may seem old fashioned, but it could mean the difference between landing the job and continuing your search.”

 

Also to help you stand out from the crowde, Tarpey suggests:

1. Be prompt

2. Be brief

3. Be specific

4. Be professional

5. Be inclusive

 

For more on Thank-You Notes, see my The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbopok for (all) Strategic Communicators. It all starts on Page 518.

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For A Resume, Type Font Matters

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(From NPR on April 28, 2015. Here is link:

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/28/402736024/for-a-resume-type-font-matters?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20150503&utm_campaign=mostemailed&utm_term=nprnews

      Before you even get your foot in the door of your next job, your resume can say a lot about you — starting with typeface.

     “Using Times New Roman is the typeface equivalent of wearing sweatpants to an interview,” Bloomberg says in an article in which it turns to typography experts to ask which typefaces work and which don’t.

     Helvetica is the top pick when it comes to playing it safe and straightforward. “It feels professional, lighthearted, honest,” Brian Hoff, creative director of Brian Hoff Design tells Bloomberg. It’s cleaner and lacks the discrete embellishments of fonts like Times New Roman.

     Times New Roman is trickier. Because it has a tired reputation, Hoff says using it shows that you didn’t put much thought into your font selection.

     If your experience-heavy resume is cramped for space, go with Garamond, says Matt Luckhurst, the creative director at the brand consultancy company, Collins. Its legibility makes it easy on the eyes.

     People love to hate Comic Sans. “Weird Al” Yankovic dedicates a lyric to the “tacky” blunder: “Got my new resume / It’s printed in Comic Sans.” Far from being a snob font, it tends toward the other end of the professional spectrum. Don’t use it on your resume “unless you are applying to clown college,” Hoff says.

     Emoticons are an easy way to express ourselves in informal settings. So, is emoji use off the table in resumes? “I think it’s a great idea,” Luckhurst says. “Maybe an emoji is your logo.”

     Who knows, maybe it’s the new “skills” category. But you might employ discretion before stamping your resume with your favorite emoji.

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