Executive Resume Writing and Career Services for Mid-Career Professionals, Managers and Executives

6 Reasons to Send a Cover Letter With Your Resume

photodune 3309769 cover letter concept xs 300x292 6 Reasons to Send a Cover Letter With Your ResumeThe importance of cover letters sometimes engenders lively debates among hiring managers, job seekers, and career professionals, and all sides have compelling arguments. Some say recruiters do not have the time to read cover letters, especially when they are under pressure to find the right candidate. Others say that fifty percent of recruiters do not read them. If that’s the case, what happens to the other fifty percent who do spend the time to read these them?

Having participated in and researched the various arguments, here are six reasons a job seeker might want to include a cover letter with his or her resume:

Fifty percent of recruiters read cover letters: While it is commonly argued that fifty percent of recruiters do not read cover letters, the other fifty percent does. Therefore, if there is a fifty-fifty chance that a cover letter is going to be read by a recruiter, why not include one with your resume?

Most employers expect a cover letter with the resume. A 2012 survey conducted by Officeteam revealed that 91% of executives said cover letters were valuable when evaluating job candidates.

The resume is only half-dressed without the cover letter. Sometimes the resume is not enough to convey the job seeker’s qualifications and interest in the role, and gives the impression that something is missing. Adding a cover letter completes the picture. It also is an opportunity to answer potential questions before they are asked. For example, “Why are their gaps in your employment?”

The cover letter demonstrates your contribution. Adam Bryant aka @NYTCorneroffice, contributor at the New York Times, was asked on LinkedIn’s How to Hire series, if a cover letter really helps in the decision to hire. He said,  “The magic word for a cover letter is contribution. You want to show that you are ready to make a contribution, rather than just hoping for a pay cheque; that you have done your homework, you are excited about the vision, and that you understand what the company does.

The cover letter is your elevator pitch for your resume. In an interview with Careerbuilder, Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith, a Massachusetts-based etiquette consulting firm, said, “The cover letter is the elevator pitch for your resume. It’s your best bet for grabbing the recruiter’s interest so that the recruiter wants to review your resume.” Learn how to polish up your cover letter much like you do with your elevator pitch.

The cover letter is an opportunity to tell your unique story and make a good first impression.  A cover letter should create a strong first impression and tells the employer why you are the best person for the role. “Submitting a resume without a cover letter is like not shaking hands when meeting someone for the first time,” says Dave Willmer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Those who aren’t including cover letters with their resumes are missing an opportunity to make a good first impression and set themselves apart from other job applicants.”

How about you? Which side of the cover letter debate are you on?  Should you or should you not send a cover letter with your resume? Share your comments below.

The cover letter demonstrates your contribution. Adam Bryant aka @NYTCorneroffice, contributor at the New York Times, was asked on LinkedIn’s How to Hire series,

Why You Should Network to Get Work

Network to Get Work Daisy Wright Why You Should Network to Get WorkNetworking guru, Donna Messer, is known for saying that one has to ‘network to get work’. It doesn’t matter how often you hear this; it doesn’t matter how often you discount it, networking to get work is a fact.

Too often people say “Networking doesn’t work for me…I am too shy to network…people might think I am forcing myself on them.”  Some of these comments may be true, but let’s GOI – Get Over It. Don’t allow such crippling thoughts to prevent you from getting the job or promotion you really want, or deserve.

You may be telling yourself that you have a great resume and cover letter, but not much is happening. Well, by themselves, they won’t get you the opportunity you are looking for. You need to find creative ways to use these documents to reach your target company. It takes hard work, and lots of it! Thomas Edison once said, Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” Do not miss your opportunity because you are thinking networking is hard work. I can guarantee you, if done properly, your networking efforts will pay off. Just don’t expect overnight success!

Some years ago, I was listening to a group of recruiters on a teleseminar. One was a senior executive recruiter from Microsoft. He told the story of a young man who had been trying to get a job with the company for two years. His resume was just not getting to the right people. You bet it was probably drowning in the sea of thousands of other resumes.

This young man discovered that the company had several blogs, and began to offer comments and contribute his opinions on topics that fell within his area of expertise. One of the company’s recruiters began paying attention to his comments and posts, and realized he knew his stuff. Not very long after he was contacted, and within 10 days of that contact he was offered his dream job with Microsoft. This may have been several years ago, but the process still works. You have to ditch the idea that networking doesn’t work, and devise strategies on how you are going to make it work for you.

Two weeks ago, one of my clients saw a position with one of his target companies and remembered I knew one of the senior HR executives, so he sent me an email to ask if I was still in touch with her. I hadn’t been for a long time, so I googled her name and realized she had moved out of that role. However, while doing the search, I found an article with the name of another recruiter in the company. I passed it to the client and suggested that he do a little bit of footwork and find out how email addresses at the company are structured. Soon after, he responded:

“Thanks for the article. I had a friend who previously worked at [Company] so I was able to copy that format (firstname.lastname@company.ca) and send a message through to the lady from the article. She said she had switched positions but would forward my message to a finance recruiter. Hopefully that will help speed things along.”

That’s networking and research all wrapped in one. Somewhere out there, there is an employer who needs what  you have to offer. But you need to know how to get on their radar. You can do this by tapping into your network or the network of others. Networking is Not a Dirty Word. It’s called Relationship Building.

Does the thought of networking send shivers down your spine? Don’t try doing it alone. Ask for help.

Are Thank You Letters Really Annoying?

photodune 4254478 thank you xs Are Thank You Letters Really Annoying?

Are thank you letters really annoying? It didn’t occur to me that they could be until very recently. A client mentioned a few days ago that a corporate recruiter with a financial institution told her that some people find thank you letters annoying. Suddenly, I was reminded that some recruiters detest cover letters and will not read them. But thank you letters?

One common school of thought has been to send a thank you letter very soon after an interview. Many recruiters, human resource professionals, and hiring managers see a thank you letter as a welcome change since most job seekers do not usually send one. In fact, most have said that sometimes such a letter, card or note, ends up being the deciding factor between two equally qualified candidates.

But, that corporate recruiter could be on to something. What if some recruiters interpret the act of sending thank you letters as schmoozing? What if they do not have the time to read yet another piece of correspondence? What if such a letter won’t impact their decision? Those may be plausible, but here are some other reasons for sending a thank you letter:

  • It demonstrates common courtesy and appreciation, even if the interview didn’t go well.
  • It leaves a positive impression, and keeps the candidate on the interviewer’s radar.
  • It reiterates interest in the position (if that’s the case), and enables the candidate to recap elements of the interview that might not have been addressed effectively.
  • It could serve as a request to withdraw from further consideration if the candidate discovers that the company would not be a good fit. (That happens too!)
  • It’s an opportunity to stay engaged and build or strengthen relationships.
  • It gives the candidate a chance to stand out from their competitor. Very few people send thank you letters.

While some recruiters might not like to receive thank you letters, there are enough reasons to send one even if it’s not read.  As a matter of fact, some suggest a handwritten letter sent by snail mail is a better idea. A letter or card with someone’s name on it is difficult to be ignored.

Communications Specialist, Alexandra Franzen, (@alex_franzen) says she “wants to live in a world where emails are short, love letters are brave and every ‘thank you’ note is scribbled by hand.” Interesting!

What are your thoughts on thank you letters? Should they be sent? Share your comments below so others will benefit.

 

7 Habits of Highly Successful Job Seekers

Stephen Covey2 7 Habits of Highly Successful Job Seekers

This post is in honour of the legendary management guru Stephen Covey, author of the bestselling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, who passed away recently. Mr. Covey’s principles were not meant to be a quick-fix prescription for personal growth, but a deliberate plan of action to achieve one’s personal, professional or business goals. In the same way, the tips below are not quick-fixes nor are they all-inclusive, but they can be applied with some degree of success if one is committed to professional growth. Highly successful job seekers:

  1. Are Proactive:  They know how fickle the job market is so they adopt a proactive mentality and are always prepared for their next opportunity. As such, their career marketing documents and resources (resume, cover letter, portfolio, personal website or blog) are up-to-date.
  2. Exude Confidence: They know their value and the contributions they have made to the company’s profitability, and are able to articulate this with confidence, but without appearing boastful.
  3. Invest in their Careers: They assess their personal strengths, know their areas for development, and are committed to continuous learning through formal and informal means.
  4. Have a Circle of Influence:  They have built their own circle of influence because they know that they cannot accomplish much on their own and that they need the support of others to succeed. This circle is a formal or informal board of directors of 4-8 people, including some whose career trajectory they would like to emulate, and others who are ready to dispense advice when requested.
  5. Are Active on Social Media: They know that social media is an equal opportunity platform that does not require a Ph.D. to sit at the table, but offers opportunities to have a presence, drive engagement, demonstrate their expertise and build credibility.
  6. Demonstrate Cross-Cultural Competency: They make a deliberate effort to operate in different cultural settings because they recognize the benefits of having diverse groups of talented people working together to solve problems better and faster.
  7. Know How to Collaborate in Virtual Teams: They know that their team members are not always in the cubicle next door, but could be miles or oceans away. In this regard, they have well-developed skills to work productively in virtual teams.

As you reflect on the life of Stephen Covey and his contributions to society, take a moment to reflect on your own career and see if you are on the right path, and even attempt to create your very own ’7 Habits’ that will help you move your career forward.

Related link: Proactive Workers Stand Out from the Pack

3 B.A.D. Tips to Bolster Your Career Brand

Speaking at CAMP 1 300x225 3 B.A.D. Tips to Bolster Your Career Brand

 

Yes, this might sound like an oxymoron, but read on…

Earlier in the year, I had the privilege of speaking to members of CAMP, a networking group for internationally trained communication, advertising and marketing professionals (hence the name CAMP), in Toronto.

The title of the presentation was “You’re BAD!” Of course, it was not an attempt to characterize these individuals as BAD in the literal sense, but to remind them that they were (and are) Bold, Audicious and Dynamic, and that by virtue of the fields within which they work, they are uniquely positioned to be B.A.D. I encouraged them to forget the labels people place on them as ‘lacking Canadian work experience’, and continue believing in themselves, their successes and their dreams.

That message is also relevant to job seekers or anyone going through a career transition. If you are working on your career marketing documents (resume, cover letter, bio, online profile, and portfolio), your brand statement, elevator pitch, or whatever other job search collateral you are creating), you can adopt a B.A.D attitude. If not, you won’t be able to effectively tell your story and get hired. Reinvent yourself, have courage, and dare to do things differently! The job environment is such a competitive one that now is a good time to be BAD!

Below are several variations of the B.A.D. acronym. Choose the one that you think will bolster your career brand and adopt it as your own mantra:

  1. Be Big, Bold & Brilliant: Take that big, bold, brilliant step to get the job or promotion you have always wanted. Don’t let fear or negative comments from others prevent you from going after what you want. Claim your brilliance and allow it to shine through every area of your life.
  2. Be Ambitious, Authentic & Astute: Be ambitious. Don’t settle for anything small. Ambition drives determination, and determination or perseverance allows you to move forward and claim your place at the table. Now it’s time to take a gut check on your Authenticity: Who are you? Are you genuine, or are you wearing a mask? Are you satisfied with ‘Brand You’, and if you are, are you consistently living that brand? Your authentic answers to these questions will help you become the person you were destined to be. Be Astute. Do you have all the smarts required to succeed? If not, are you engaging in developmental activities that will help you acquire these skills?
  3. Be Dynamic, Decisive & Distinct: A Dynamic individual demonstrates confidence. Whether you are networking, interviewing or having a casual conversation, you need to exhibit an aura of confidence. Stop acting like a wimp!  Be Decisive: When you have a serious decision to make, tell yourself firmly that you are going to make it. The famous author, Napoleon Hill, said “Indecision is the seedling of fear.” In all your interactions, you need to position yourself as Decisive; someone who is willing to make a decision even at the risk of being unpopular. Any hesitancy on your part could indicate that you are unsure about yourself. You are Distinct. There is no other person like you. You have been individually picked and handcrafted for a purpose. This mindset allows you to accept the unique person you are and differentiate yourself from everyone else.

After reading all these BAD tips, images of conceit, self-centredness and egotism might be entering your mind, but reject those thoughts. This is not about bragging. It’s about standing up for yourself. Don’t downplay your accomplishments, and pass them off as being “Just a part of the job”, or “It’s no big deal”. This is the time for you to adopt a B.A.D. attitude and learn to market your distinct brand so you won’t miss out on another opportunity. Go ahead and be B.A.D.!

You can click on the photograph above to watch a 5-minute video with snippets from my presentation to CAMP. It’s from Rogers TV, so expect to see a 30-second commercial before the real piece. Watch it and let me know your thoughts!

 

10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

Blackhole Resume2 10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

Are you a job seeker who is frustrated with online applicant tracking systems (ATS)? Do you often wonder if your resume has disappeared into a blackhole because the only response you have had from the company is a generic, computer-generated acknowledgement? Well, you have a legitimate reason to be frustrated. After all, only 1% of total applicants get an interview. It’s also likely that your resume may have fallen into the 75% (approximately) of resumes that are discarded for using the wrong words. [Source: Preptel].

To help you understand the ATS process, and to find out how you can boost the chances that your resume will get through this ubiquitous system, I contacted two experts: Chip Cohan, VP of Business Development at PrepTel, and Sylvia Dahlby, of Advanced Personnel Systems, Inc., the company that develops the SmartSearch® applicant tracking system.

SmartSearch® helps companies find resumes fast in a searchable database, and because employers can store thousands of resumes in databases, the system helps them identify qualified candidates among previous as well as new applicants.

PrepTel, on the other hand, is a job seeker’s ally. They are the developers of ResumeterTM, a tool that uses the same technology hiring companies use to help identify deficiencies and show where a résumé may be improved, so it rises to the top of the applicant pool during the screening process. According to Chip, the tool “…enables individuals to quickly and easily customize a résumé for each job opening increasing the success the résumé will be reviewed and considered for an interview”.  This Candidate Optimization service is purported to “…improve a candidate’s chances of getting an interview, securing an offer, and maximizing their compensation package.”

Below are some tips that you should consider when using applicant tracking systems:

  1. Don’t limit the length of your resume. Job seekers are often told to limit their resumes to two pages. That’s still OK if you are sending it as an attachment or delivering it in person, but if you are using the ATS, you can send in a longer version.
  2. Use a generic heading like ‘Work Experience’. Fancy headings like Career Summary, Career Progression, and Notable Accomplishments, are passed over by the system because it is not designed to recognize such headings.
  3. Begin the work experience section with the name of your employer. It is customary to start this section with the employment dates, but the system looks for the name(s) of employers first. Therefore, start with employer’s name, your title, and the dates you held these titles, and place them on separate lines.
  4. Keep formatting simple and omit tables and graphics. The system cannot read graphics, and misreads PDF files and tables.
  5. Include a blend of keywords and phrases. Keywords are important, but the system is programmed to conduct semantic searches where it looks for strings of words identified in the job posting.
  6. Do not ‘sand-bag’ the system. Mirror the job posting as much as possible, but do not manipulate the system with needless repetitions of words and phrases. Recruiters frown on candidates who try to game the system.
  7. Research the company’s corporate culture. Before you submit your resume, visit the company’s website to get a sense of its corporate culture. Look at the words they use to describe their value, then incorporate those words in your resume and/or cover letter.
  8. Make the Resume Easy and Fast to Read. Even though the machinery is searching for keywords, candidates are well advised to have a nice, clean looking document with plenty of white space that’s easy to read on a computer screen and in print.
  9. Use Bullet Points. To avoid long sentences and huge blocks as paragraphs, it is advisable to use bullets, preferably asterisks.
  10. Add a Cover Letter. The cover letter is the perfect place to show interest and fit for the company culture.

Dahlby also offered some additional suggestions:  Job seekers should rewrite their resumes for each position to make sure they mirror the job description. She also advised against ‘sandbagging’ the process. Sandbagging is when candidates include needless repetitions of words and phrases, or when they try to ‘game’ the system by using a lot of keywords and hiding them with white fonts.

With the above information, you should now be equipped to optimize your resume to make sure it ranks high enough where a human will, at the very least, read it, and your frustration level should be reduced a notch.

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“Read an E-Book Week” is March 4-10, 2012!

Read an Ebook Week 2012ebook Read an E Book Week is March 4 10, 2012!

Don’t be surprised if from March 4-10, 2012, you see ebook authors offering their books at steep discounts, or for free. You see, March 4, is Read an E-Book Week, a practice that’s been going on for several years. The Canadian Parliament took it a step further by declaring during its 41st sitting in November 2011, that March is Read an E-Book Month. We have Canadian author, Rita Toews, to thank for that. Toews is an award-winning author and founder of E-Book Week.

If you are an author of an ebook, or you have converted your Pbook (printed version) to an ebook, you might want to participate in Read an E-book Week. Additional information can be found on E-Book Week and Smashwords. As a participating author, I am pleased to announce that No Canadian Experience, Eh?  is being offered for $10.97 from March 4-10, 2012. That’s almost a 50% savings!

No Canadian Experience, Eh?, was a ‘first-of-its-kind’ career guide (when the first edition was published in 2007), that addressed the challenges that new Canadians face during their job search. It covers not only job search basics such as resume and cover letter development; preparing for and mastering the interview; building professional networks, and accessing the hidden job market, but includes advice and strategies from top career experts on social media, personal branding, onboarding, green careers, leadership, stress management, career assessments, self-employment, consulting and time management. It also contains advice and tips from recruiters and human resources professionals who understand what employers look for in potential employees.

Make sure to click on the image below to grab your copy, at almost 50% off, before midnight on March 10, 2012.

20120116 002 ebook cover 300 271x300 Read an E Book Week is March 4 10, 2012!If you would like to have access to these proven job search and career strategies contributed by 16 career experts, and condensed into this guide, then don’t miss this opportunity! Grab your copy here: Read an eBook Week!

Happy reading, and spread the word about Read an E-Book Week. Hundreds of authors are participating in a variety of ways. See Smashwords

 

*This offer will not be combined with any other offers.

 

How a Patchwork Quilt Résumé Could Damage Your Brand

Patchwork Quilt Resume How a Patchwork Quilt Résumé Could Damage Your Brand

Wikipedia’s Definition of a patchwork quilt: a quilt in which the top layer consists of pieces of fabric sewn together to form a design.

By my own definition, a patchwork quilt résumé is one that is made up of phrases and sentences copied from other people’s career documents (résumé, cover letter, bio, or LinkedIn Profile), and presented as one’s own.

Recently, there was an intense discussion on the forum of one of my professional associations about someone who had copied blocks of a sample résumé to create her own then contacted one member to spruce it up for her. While scrutinizing the document, the member realized the contents didn’t gel, so she did a Google search. It turned out the sample résumé was crafted by another member of this same association and posted in an article on AOL.

I have had my share of people sending me résumés made up of bits and pieces of other people’s résumés, and sometimes cover letters. In one case, it was the summary from one of my own creations. As I started reading the résumé, I thought the wording sounded familiar. On checking, I realized it was one I had written for another client. This new client told me someone had helped him out for free but he wasn’t having much success with it.

When information is copied from someone else’s résumé, it is very easy to spot the patchwork quilt design. The information is incoherent; statements are generic and some phrases just do not match the person’s experience or background. Actions like these only serve to damage one’s brand, and elicit accusations of plagiarism, copyright infringements, and ethics. Moreover, if such a résumé lands on the desk of a discerning hiring manager, such a candidate’s credibility will come into question, and he or she will most likely not be called for an interview.

Here are the facts:

  • Your résumé is a branding tool that tells YOUR story, not someone else’s, and shows the face YOU want employers to see.
  • You are unique! There is no one else like you, with the same experience, accomplishments and work ethic. Your co-worker may have the same job description and may do the same work like you, but he or she is not your clone. You must differentiate yourself.
  • Your aim is to create a résumé that captures your unique talents, accomplishments and experience; not one that looks like a patchwork quilt, or one that gives the impression you have a Jekyll and Hyde personality.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Instead of scouring the Internet for sample résumés to build your own, take a look at your job description and ask yourself “What have I done with the job they asked me to do? How is the company better off since I joined?”
  • Read each job description statement and apply the ‘so what’ factor to each. For example, if one of your responsibilities is to “monitor and analyze sales promotion results...” Ask yourself, “So what? What did I do? What happened?”
  • Review your last two performance appraisals and look for the nuggets of your contributions from projects you worked on, objectives met and targets exceeded.
  • Start building a résumé that tells YOUR story. Make sure each statement addresses your value proposition, and answers the employer’s question “Why should we hire you?” If you are unable to create your own résumé, find someone whom you trust; has credentials and know what they are doing.

Don’t damage your brand with a patchwork quilt résumé. Learn to tell your own story and get hired!

Monday Rx: Change Your Job Search Strategy If…

change strategy Monday Rx: Change Your Job Search Strategy If...

You have often heard the saying, “If you always do what you have always done, you will continue getting what you have always gotten”, or something close. If that sounds like you and your job search or your career, then you may want to reconsider your strategy, regardless of your status or what stage of the job search game you are at.

Consider this story:

A Mom wrote me on September 8, and said, “My daughter has taken a year off before going to college and she desperately needs a job.  She has been job hunting, but her lack of experience is a real hindrance.  She is now very discouraged.  Could you spare some time to talk to her on the phone in the next few days?”

On September 10, I contacted the young lady – all of 17 years old – and asked her to explain to me what she had been doing. After our initial conversation, I suggested she did things differently. Since she had never worked before, I gave her a research assignment to visit several locations in her area – Tim Hortons, McDonalds, Starbucks, Canadian Tire, among others. She was to observe the surroundings, how the employees behaved, how they treated customers and generally be alert for other things that were taking place. She was also to make notes of her observations. In addition, she should write down comments that people frequently made about her – her punctuality, reliability, leadership skills, etc. Lastly, she should create a list of some of her own qualities.

With the information from her research, we created a one page hybrid of a cover letter and résumé and I asked her to customize each to fit the companies she was targeting. She was to write what she observed on her visits, what was going well and how she could add value as their next employee. Remember, she had little to go on in the first place.

On September 15, she responded by saying: This is incredibly helpful! I’ve been applying to places all week so tomorrow I will follow up with all the companies to which I applied. I will keep you updated on how that goes.”

What a difference in her mood in five days! On September 23, she wrote: “Hi Mrs. Wright, I just want to say thank you for all your advice and help. I really appreciate it. I received my first job yesterday – full time hostess at Red Lobster. I’m ecstatic!”

Entry-level students are not my usual clientele, but I deviated from the norm with this young lady. What I found is that a change of strategy works, whether one is an entry-level job seeker or a more seasoned professional, but it requires commitment and perseverance. Who would’ve imagined that in a such a tough job market, a 17 year-old who had never previously worked could change her job search strategy and find success within 13 days?

How about you? Is your job search strategy working for you, or is it time to go back to the drawing board and tweak it a bit? Contact me if you need some assistance!

 

Image source: Google

7 Job Search Do’s and Don’ts

Do s and  Donts 7 Job Search Dos and Donts

 

DON’T send a cover letter with “To Whom it May Concern”. It portends laziness and lack of interest.

DO the research to find the name of the person responsible for hiring.

 

DON’T use “References Available on Request” on your résumé.

DO use a quote from your performance appraisal or a testimonial that highlights your value.

 

DON’T replicate your job description when developing your résumé.

DO include powerful accomplishment-based statements that address the employer’s buying motivators or needs.

 

DON’T spend too much of your job search hours on the computer.

DO arrange more face time with people in your network.

 

DON’T send a generic Thank-you note after the interview.

DO send one that recaps key elements of the discussion and reiterates your interest in the position.

 

DON’T ask for a job at an informational interview.

DO ask for one or two names they recommend you contact.

 

DON’T relate your life story when asked “Tell me about yourself”.

DO talk about your education, work history, and what you have recently done for your company.

 

 

Image Credit: Dirjournal.com