Thursday, July 30, 2009

Helping Clients -- It's Not Always the Cover Letter's Fault

In a recent blog post on CareerBuilder's Work Buzz Blog, a job seeker named "Jim" asked "How Do I Land an Interview?"

Blogger Kate Lorenz from CareerBuilder answered his questions, and provided some great information. I added my thoughts in a comment, reprinted for you here:

Great tips, Kate! Also, it might not be Jim's cover letter that is the real issue here -- it might also be the resume -- combined with a lack of focus on what kind of job he really wants (he mentions aerospace but then also an interest in a career change). As you advised, cover letters need to be specifically targeted to the position/company being pursued. It's fine to develop a general "template," but then that must be finely tuned to meet the specific responsibilities and challenges of the position being targeted. If it's a position in Sales Management in Aerospace, then that should be highlighted specifically -- no mention of a career change. To go a bit further than your comment about finding a "hook" in the cover letter, both the resume and cover letter need to quantify specific accomplishments that Jim has produced in his 20 years of experience (and most definitely in his most recent position) ... identifying how he specifically helped his last employer make money, save money, solve a specific problem, keep a customer, get new customers, etc. In addition, remember that cover letters are "employer-centric," not "you-centric." There's an awful lot of "I" statements in Jim's cover letter -- and it's nice that he wants to "simplify" his career, but the employer could probably care less about that. Instead, quantify the value that you have to offer to the EMPLOYER, not what YOU hope to get out of the job. In addition, you've got to get the resume and cover letter to the right person at the company. Go beyond applying online and research the company (look at their website, Google them, check out their recent press releases). Find specific individuals at targeted companies to contact. Use LInkedIn to identify executives at the company ... and then use those contacts to help identify what their specific needs are -- for both positions they're advertising, and the jobs that they're going to need to develop and fill, to meet future growth. (That is especially important since Jim has a background in product support.) When you're not getting interviews, it might not be your age or "overabundance" of experience. It might be that you need a professional to help you with taking an objective look at your resume and cover letter ... and learning how to network your way to your next job. You can find professional resume writers who would be willing to provide a free review of your resume through the various professional associations: Career Directors International (www.careerdirectors.com) National Resume Writers Association (www.nrwa.com) Professional Association of Resume Writers (www.parw.com) Career Management Alliance (www.careermanagementalliance.com) Bridget (Weide) Brooks, CPRW Editor, Resume Writers' Digest

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