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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,

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!

10 Résumé Buzzwords to Avoid in 2012

Hear ye, Hear ye! This is hot off the Press! LinkedIn has just released its list of most overused professional buzzwords for 2011. They did this after analyzing 135 million professional profiles on their website. Some of these same words were on the list in 2010, and have resurfaced. Check your résumé or LinkedIn profile to see if you are guilty of using any or all of these:

1.      Creative

2.      Organizational

3.      Effective

4.      Extensive experience

5.      Track record

6.      Motivated

7.      Innovative

8.      Problem solving

9.      Communication skills

10.    Dynamic

As much as we might want to eliminate or reduce the use of these words and phrases, employers tend to lag behind with the use of clichés. Their job postings still include many of these words. Their applicant tracking system still contains these words and phrases, yet if the words are not incorporated in a candidate’s résumé, the résumé does not stand much of a chance of being seen by the human eye.

One way to overcome or minimize the use of these words is to give examples or tell stories of:

  • how you were creative
  • what problems you solved
  • what really got you motivated, and
  • how many years of experience you have.

By using this method, the hiring manager or decision-maker can easily see your potential value.

As with everything else, your decision to include or exclude these words requires a delicate balance. The fact is, there are going to be times when using the ‘word or phrase’ is your only option!

 

Source: LinkedIn’s Most Overused Buzzwords for 2011

 

Client Lands Job Posted on Twitter

Her recent email read “Remember that job posting you sent me about a Bilingual Marketing Manager where they asked me to translate my résumé to French? I want to let you know that I got an offer and I accepted it. I am very excited since there will be a lot of interesting challenges and I am getting everything I want – salary, vacation and benefits. Thank you for all your help and I will keep in touch.”

This message was from a client with whom I had been working for several months. She was having a tough time finding a marketing manager’s position and thought that nine months was unbelievably too long to be looking for work. At times in our conversations I could sense her frustration, but I reminded her gently that job searching could be a slow and tedious process, but if she kept her head up and continued doing the right things she would eventually land the job she wanted. I also told her that giving up was not an option. She hung in there and got the job.

How did this happen? As part of the job search strategy, I encourage my clients to invest time in social media. I do, and it’s not not for social reasons, although that happens. On Twitter, for example, I follow hiring managers, recruiters and job boards, and participate in Twitter Chats with HR professionals, recruiters and leadership coaches to keep abreast of industry trends. Through these channels, I sometimes become aware of job opportunities and if I find that someone in my network seem to be a match for some of these opportunities (whether they are clients or not), I forward the information to them.

This Bilingual Marketing Manager’s job is a great example. It was posted on Twitter by Monster Canada (@Monsterca). When I read the requirements, it sounded perfect for my client so I forwarded it to her. She translated her résumé to French as the company requested, and after a couple of interviews and several weeks of waiting (because of the summer holidays), she landed the job with “everything she wanted…” as noted above.

Looking for a job is a full-time job, as it’s often said, but it requires various strategies to achieve success. The other point is that you may have a great résumé, but if you continue to use ineffective job search methods or rely on one particular strategy, it will not help you land the job of your dreams. Therefore, plan to incorporate social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ into your job search toolkit because that’s where employers and recruiters hang out these days. Job boards are still around, but the companies behind these boards are extending their reach via social media. If you are an early adopter ready to jump on the social media band wagon, you will be way ahead of your competitors and achieve your job search goal.

And, don’t buy in to the concept that there are no jobs! Jobs are out there, but you need to assess your skills, employ a variety of tools, be deliberate with your search and visualize yourself sitting at the desk as an employee at one of your target companies!  Remember, “Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve.”

I hope you have gained some value from this post. Share your comments below, or connect with me if you need to discuss how you can move your career forward. I will be pleased to have a chat with you!