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6 Reasons to Send a Cover Letter With Your Resume

Cover letter conceptThe 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,

Life is Like a Camera, and So is Your Job Search

Monday_Morning_Rx_Life_is_Like_a_Camera

Happy Monday!

For readers who do not know about my Monday Morning Rx, it differs from a regular blog post. It is a small dose of encouragement to brighten your Mondays as you begin your work week, or as you continue your job search. It is supposed to be short and uplifting. So here we go:

Let FOCUS be your keyword today.

  • Focus on what’s important
  • Focus on your job search
  • Focus on your interview prep
  • Focus on revamping your resume
  • Focus on that difficult project
  • Focus on building your network
  • Focus on self-development
  • Focus on that awkward conversation you need to have with the boss
  • Focus on _______________. (Fill in the blank)

Focus, focus focus!

To your success,

daisyname

Job Seeker, What’s Holding You Back?

What's Holding You Back?

Image Template Courtesy of @HubSpot

Dear Job Seeker,

What’s holding you back from achieving your dreams? Have you failed too many times to get a promotion so you have given up on yourself? Do you have dreams yet to be realized, but something in your past is holding you back? Whether you are looking for a new job, a promotion or to attain some other personal goal, it’s never too late.

In one of Joel Osteen’s daily messages, he mentioned an article that says “..the wealthiest places on earth are not the oil fields of the Middle East nor the diamond mines of South Africa. The wealthiest places are the cemeteries. Buried in the ground are businesses that were never formed, songs that were never sung, books that were never written, potential that was never realized, and dreams that never came to pass.”

Author, journalist, and long distance swimmer, Diana Nyad, had an extreme dream – to swim from Cuba to Florida. Nothing could hold her back from achieving this dream. She made four attempts and failed, but she never gave up. On September 2, 2013, and on her 5th attempt, she accomplished that dream. It only took 35 years, and being 64 years old.

How many of us have the determination to hold on to a dream for that long? Not many. Thirty five years  and five attempts might be extreme, but there are many people who abandon even smaller dreams in months instead of years. They hold themselves back after having one or two failures. Nowhere is this more evident than in the job search.

Job seekers of all ilk, (entry-level professionals, managers and emerging executives), are settling for less. They are in jobs that are no longer fulfilling. They are bypassed for promotions and see this as a life sentence. Don’t let setbacks and failures hold you back. Begin to push yourself forward rather than being held back. Here are three quick tips to help you get a job or a promotion:

  1. Conduct a self-assessment. Find out, through formal or informal assessments, whether you have the specific skills and experiences required for your next role. If there are areas for growth, commit to investing in yourself.
  2. Meet with the boss. Schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss your desire to assume a new role. Ask him or her if there is anything you could take off their plate which would allow them to focus on other more pressing issues.
  3. Take on a project that others refuse to do. It might not be the most glamorous task, but you will be noticed for showing initiative, and you will learn new skills to add to your resume. Remember to document your activities so you can refer to them at your next performance appraisal.

When you are tempted to give up on your dreams of a better job or a new career, think of Diana Nyad and her tenacity. Remind yourself of these two things: You are never too old to chase your dreams, and never, ever give up.

 

Why You Should Network to Get Work

People networkingNetworking 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.

Why Your References’ Rave Reviews May Be a Waste of Time

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Your impressive resume got you the interview. You built a good rapport with the panel and you are feeling confident that you might get the job. Just as you are getting ready to pull out your reference list in case you are asked for it, someone asks you to explain your relationship with your bosses and colleagues at each of your past workplaces.”  Wow! That’s a curve ball you were not expecting. Suddenly it seems that all that effort of prepping your references was a waste of time.

Some employers believe that this common practice of relying on “candidate-supplied super fans” is not objective and could be a waste of time. Deborah Aarts, senior editor at Profit Magazine wrote recently that “Candidate-supplied references are usually nothing more than glowing reviews”, and she has found other people who agree with her. The chairman of an executive search firm, as well as a small business owner, agree that the practice is flawed because “Candidates are only going to give you people who’ll say good things about them.  Well, one would imagine that that’s the point of having references!

While some may see reference checking as a waste of time, it is not going away. Employers still need performance verification from people with whom a candidate has worked. They want to make sure that the candidate can do the job, will do the job and will fit in with the company’s culture. Reference checking is a combination of asking the right questions of the candidate and the references, and administering appropriate assessments. This should help to determine if the candidate will be a good fit. The majority of times the process works, so it wouldn’t amount to being a waste of time.

The candidate also has a job to do. He or she should be ready to explain the highs and lows in each position, if and when asked. This is not the time to badmouth the boss (or ex-boss) or anyone else. If the relationship was not all that great, say so, but frame it in a way that’s open and honest. Something like:

I am not sure what George at Widget Inc. would say about me at this point since he wasn’t too happy when I resigned.  After three years in the department, I was bypassed for a promotion and asked to train the new hire. I decided it was time to explore other opportunities, and so I left for the position with ABC Company. That position represented not only a hike in salary, but the title and responsibilities were exactly what I was looking for. As you can see, I excelled in that role and was promoted within 12 months of joining the company.”

Most employers know that people are not perfect and that work relationships sour.  However, if a candidate is willing to be transparent and authentic and discuss the situation candidly, while focusing on lessons learned, they could end up being a better reference for themselves than anyone else could.

What are your thoughts? Is referencing checking really a waste of time?

 

Why You Should Leave the Complacency of Your Comfort Zone

Monday Morning Rx – A Weekly Dose of Career Inspiration

Hello there! I am Daisy Wright, of The Wright Career Solution, and am here with the Monday Morning Rx – a weekly dose of career inspiration.

Today’s episode is titled Why You Should Leave the Complacency of Your Comfort Zone.

First, I want you to take a look at the image before you. If you are within the circle where it is said that 90% of the population resides, I think you are a bit too comfortable, and it’s time to disrupt yourself. Get up and stretch, because I have an assignment for you today. I would like you to choose a phrase from inside the circle that you say quite often to yourself, and throw it away – literally or figuratively. Banish it from your vocabulary. Do not allow it to take centre stage in your life or your mind again.

Once you have done that, dare yourself to look outside the circle and choose one phrase that makes  you uncomfortable. It makes you uneasy whenever you see or say it. Brainstorm with yourself by writing as much as you can about this phrase. In doing so, keep asking these two questions: Why does this make me so uneasy or uncomfortable? What am I going to do about it?

I believe the comfort zone is jammed. Too many of us are settling for less; too many of us are fearful about trying something new, so we lock ourselves in this comfort zone where we feel safe. If this sounds like you, it’s time to get out of this space and allow yourself the freedom and flexibility to become the person you were destined to be!

Need help in getting started? Why not engage a coach or mentor; someone who can help you leave the complacency of your comfort zone and try something different. Then watch yourself gain confidence as you push yourself forward.

Someone once said, “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”  My challenge to you today and this week is to make the decision not to stay where you are, but to get out of this safe place.

Best wishes as you move forward with your life and your career. Until then, it’s Daisy Wright, career coach at The Wright Career Solution, where we help managers and emerging executives tell their career stories and get hired.

 

 

Monday Morning Rx: Chase Your Dreams, It’s Never Too Late

Madame C J Walker_Recite

This is your Monday Morning Rx – a giant dose of inspiration for today!

The above quote is attributed to Madame C.J. Walker. “Her savvy business acumen led her to become the first female self-made millionaire in the United States who donated the largest amount of money by an African-American toward the construction of an Indianapolis YMCA in 1913.”

Mrs. Walker had many obstacles to overcome, but she did.

Take your eyes off yesterday’s closed door. Yesterday is gone forever. Today is all you have, and now is the right moment to begin chasing your dreams! What are those dreams?

  • Is it a new job? Well, what’s holding you back? Do you need some help moving your career forward?
  • Do you want to start a business? Grab the phone or send an email to someone you admire who has a business similar to the one you have in mind. Start the conversation rolling.
  • Would you like to learn a new skill? It’s not necessary for you to sit in a formal classroom to learn a new skill. Ample opportunities abound. Sometimes it’s as close as the cubicle next door, or in another department. Why not ask to job shadow someone at work?
  • Have you always wanted to climb a mountain? This may be a steep one, but if it’s your dream, then go after it. My neighbour recently returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and it was a climb of a lifetime she says. It took everything she had, she said, but it was worth it. She has returned with a new perspective on life.

What is it that you have always wanted to do, but excuses kept getting in your way? You have run out of excuses now. It’s time to chase your dreams and achieve success. Madame C.J. Walker did!

Want some support? Share your dreams right here and I will hold you accountable.

 

 

 

How a Newly-Arrived Immigrant Landed a Six-Figure Job

https://www.daisywright.com/2013/07/23/how-a-newly-arrived-immigrant-landed-a-six-figure-job/Matthew had started his job search a few months before he arrived in Canada, but realized he needed coaching and a resume targeted to the Canadian market. He was referred to me by someone with whom we are both connected through LinkedIn.

After our initial discussion we agreed on a resume package that included a rewrite of his LinkedIn Profile. In his resume, we positioned him as a Global Business Development Executive. He was pleased with the resume, but wondered if it could intimidate some people. To calm his fears, I asked him the following questions:

  • Is the resume an accurate reflection of your achievements?
  • Did you oversee million dollar budgets?
  • Were you involved in some key contract negotiations?
  • Did you grow revenue by 65% for 3 consecutive years?
  • Did you reduce staff turnover by 50%?

He answered “Yes” to each question. I told him he had nothing to worry about but should focus his energies on how he could duplicate his successes with a new employer.

One of the first things he did after receiving his documents was to contact the CEO of one of his target companies through LinkedIn. He did this using a networking email I developed for him. Soon after, he was asked to send his resume. While waiting for a response, he began responding to postings on job boards. After he had uploaded 10 resumes over seven days, he contacted me to say he was not receiving any responses. I brought him back to reality by telling him that job boards, while important, were not the most effective tools for an effective job search.

He also had a couple of concerns. As successful as he was, he felt he was at a disadvantage without an MBA. He had also heard a lot about internationally educated professionals who were languishing in survival jobs because they lacked ‘Canadian experience’. I confirmed the truth, but suggested that he not allow such thoughts to take root in his head. He should focus, instead on his value proposition – what he had to offer employers.

Not too long into his search he was contacted by a VP to whom the CEO had forwarded his resume. In less than three weeks after that, he had had two interviews and a job offer. Before signing on the dotted line, he called me to ask questions about the offer. I gave him my non-legal opinion, and soon after he started his new six figure job as a Senior Director, Product Development with the company.

I imagine that several thoughts are going through your mind right now. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? What industry is he in? What did he do that I didn’t or couldn’t do?

Here are some things that contributed to Matthew’s success:

  1. He exuded confidence. Even though he may have been quaking in his boots, he displayed confidence in himself and his abilities – online and in person. During our strategy sessions, he mentioned that he was not averse to taking a survival job if he had to, but felt his resume would help him reach key decision makers. I also encouraged him to aim for his ideal position.
  2. He tapped into his network. Building and nurturing a network is crucial to job search success. Over time he had built a strong online network that included the CEO mentioned above. They were not buddies but he had the courage to send his resume that grabbed his attention. That is what set the process in motion.
  3. He invested in himself. He spent the time, money and effort needed to begin a serious job search and the results speak for themselves. So many people hesitate to invest in themselves and their careers yet worry when they don’t get the job or promotion they had hoped for.

The questions rolling around in your mind are legitimate ones that matter, but sometimes it just takes courage, perseverance and a don’t-ever-give-up-no-matter-what mentality! Begin by valuing your worth and believing that you have something to offer an employer. Determine how you are going to package that value, then find ways to go above, under or through the barriers. Do so as if your life depended on it, because it does! I’ll leave it at that for now and ask that you send me your comments.

Why Dumbing Down Your Resume is a Dumb Idea

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If you are dumbing down your resume and downplaying your achievements, you are playing small. You are cowering under the pressure of other people’s opinions. You are undervaluing your capabilities.

The majority of my clients are aspiring managers, managers and emerging executives. Some are also senior leaders or presidents of their own companies but are considering corporate opportunities. Many are faced with challenges from being told they are overqualified, they don’t have Canadian experience, or that they are too old.

I had a conversation with a senior leader (someone in his late fifties) this past week where he said that headhunters have told him that he is too old. I asked him how old is his intellectual capital – that mass of knowledge, ideas and experience housed in his cranium that some 30- or 40-somethings wouldn’t have. This man is an executive within the energy industry, and prior to that worked in the investment and bond markets. Will his age prevent him from adding value to a company?

My colleague Sharon Graham, wrote a blog post recently on this topic. The link is posted below. In it she exposed some of the myths about dumbing down one’s resume. She discussed the fact that there is currently a leadership vacuum, and that new industries are emerging, while others are here to stay. For those reasons, one should highlight one’s achievements instead of dumbing them down.

We live in a real world where these things happen, and I know you hear it quite often. Employers, hiring managers and recruiters telling you overtly or covertly that you are overqualified or you are too old. This is a dumb approach and only serves to exclude potentially good candidates. By the same token it  puts you on the defensive. There are strategies that you, a potentially good candidate, can use to overcome these barriers:

  1. Research the potential employer thoroughly then focus on areas where you know you can solve their problems and add value. Don’t apologize for your accomplishments and successes.
  2. Seek to connect with decision makers, or other people who know these decision makers. This proactive approach might be uncomfortable for some of you but it’s better than constantly uploading  resumes that may end up in the resume black hole.
  3. Be prepared to begin your conversation with something like: “I want you, just for a moment, to suspend your belief that I am overqualified, too old, don’t have Canadian experience [or whatever your specific circumstance is]. If you would like your company to remain where it is, then I might not be a good fit. But, if you would like to see explosive growth within the next X months/years, then we should be having a discussion.” Of course, you have to back up this blatant claim with your proven success stories.

It is the responsibility of managers, emerging executives, or any job seeker for that matter, to focus on what they have to offer their next employer. The next step is to determine how they can package this offer in a way that will have employers reaching out to them. This is not the time to leave your career up to job boards, applicant tracking systems, or junior staff who sometimes screen you out because their perception is that you are overqualified or too old.

If you find yourself downplaying your achievements, it’s time to stop. You are someone with a whole lot of things to offer. Stand tall, pull your shoulders back and be prepared to articulate your stories in ways that produce conversations. If you are meeting too much resistance, then ask yourself if this particular organization would be a good place for your to work.

Have you been told to dumb down your resume? If so, share your story in the comments section below, reach out to a career coach, or contact me. We just might be able to help you overcome these job search obstacles.

Related resources

Dumbing Down a Resume is Not a Great Idea (Sharon Graham)

10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

 

5 Reasons You Are Being Ignored on LinkedIn

AreJob search on LinkedIn you being bypassed on LinkedIn? Are your invitations being rejected? If you are a manager or emerging executive who is not attracting influential contacts, or who is not on the radar of recruiters and decision makers, you are probably being ignored on LinkedIn because of these blunders:

You have chosen to keep the ghost-looking blank box. Without a professional headshot, hiring managers, recruiters and potential contacts assume you are invisible or that you don’t exist. People are more inclined to accept your invitation if they can associate a name with a photograph, so add a bit of personality to your profile. When you do upload a photo, make sure it is a professional one. One client had a photo that included his cute little daughter. That was great for Facebook, but not for LinkedIn.

5 Reasons You Are Being Ignored on LinkedIn

You are using LinkedIn’s default invitation. I have lost count on how many invitations I have received that started with LinkedIn’s default or generic invitation, “Hi, I would like to add you to my professional network”. Spend time crafting a customized message. Give recipients a reason to connect with you. Remind them of how you met; that you are both members of the same alumni group; that you have been following their insightful discussions on an industry’s LinkedIn Group. Or, if those strategies don’t apply, say something that indicates you value them and are not just looking to add numbers to your network.

5 Reasons You Are Being Ignored on LinkedIn

You have not changed the default public profile URL. When you first signed up for a LinkedIn account, you were given a URL that has your name and some numbers and letters. Create a clean, personally-branded URL by following the instructions under Edit Profile. If someone with your name has already grabbed that URL, use a middle initial or something that will differentiate you from others with the same name.

5 Reasons You Are Being Ignored on LinkedIn

You have a scanty and incomplete profile. One of the first things many people do after they sign up for a LinkedIn account is to start sending invitations. Big mistake! Add content to your profile. Before asking people to join your network, let them know who you are, what you have done, what skills you have, what you are good at. Give them a good reason for wanting to connect with you.

5 Reasons You Are Being Ignored on LinkedIn

You are asking for favours too early in the relationship. This is like going on a blind date and asking your date to marry you. Never ask your new contact to help you find a job or for any other favours so early in the relationship. Relationship building comes first. Give them a chance to get to know you, or more importantly, find out how you may be able to help them.

5 Reasons You Are Being Ignored on LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows your profile to be available 24/7 for anyone to see at any time. If you are serious about your job search, here are some quick reminders:

  • Make sure your profile is 100% complete (or close)
  • Customize your invitations
  • Upload a professional head shot
  • Customize your personal URL.
  • Do not start asking for favours as soon as your new contact has accepted your invitation

Sometimes you might not be looking for new opportunities but because you have an attention-grabbing professional profile, you could be contacted by individuals looking for people with your expertise.

How does your LinkedIn or your other social media profiles measure up? Share your thoughts here.