Everyone knows the importance of a cover letter. One that’s well written and engaging can get you an interview even if your resume isn’t quite up to par. A strong cover letter is a way to convey potential and energy and enthusiasm that a resume simply can’t. A weak cover letter can have the opposite effect. It can make a great resume seem duller and less motivating.
There are several key components to every strong cover letter. Make sure you cover all of them!
Before we talk about the content of the introduction we would like to talk about the importance of finding out the name of person who will be reading your letter. What letter are you going to be more motivated to read, one addressed to whom it may concern, or one addresses specifically to you? There are several ways to figure out the who on your own by checking the company out online. The most straightforward way to do it is to call and ask for the name of the hiring manager.
Now that you’ve addressed them by name you can go ahead and tell them a little about yourself. Why you’re applying, how you learned about the opportunity, why you’d be a good fit and an interesting point about yourself or your experience to whet their appetite.
Meat and potatoes
In this paragraph go deeper about your qualifications, your experience and your potential. Provide qualitative examples. I expanded my qualifications by taking this course and that one. This award came my way and along with that recognition. I increased productivity in my department through X,Y,Z initiatives.
Take it one step further and discuss how all these achievements, qualifications will benefit this company you are applying to. Imagine yourself already in the position and talk about what you can bring specifically to this job in this company.
Reiterate how interested you are in the job. Let them know when you are available for an interview. Thank them for their time and consideration and let them know you look forward to hearing from them.
Finish off with Sincerely, Regards, Best Regards and wait for the call for an interview!
You know when you’re in the middle of trying to get something off the ground, or get something done and you’re overwhelmed by it? When you wake up already stressed out and can’t get this thing you’re trying to do out of your thoughts?
Difficulties come in all shapes and sizes
You would think the project would have to be really big to cause that much disruption in your life, but that’s not necessarily the case. Last week I had to write a very important overview of a new project I’m working on. The overview was less than four pages long, but it had to be presented in a specific format and I had never written anything like it before.
Every day for a week I woke up worrying about it. It came on dog walks with me and into the shower. It’s not like I was avoiding work on this thing. I was actually working on it every day, but I couldn’t get it right. A part of me felt like I might never get it right. Like this particular task was beyond my abilities. I networked with people who I thought I could help and sent out excerpts to someone who agreed to mentor me on the project.
And then within the jumble of all my attempts and the pages I had written while trying to get to these four, something clicked. I wasn’t finished with the project. I was actually still pretty far off. But all my dog walking and showering and networking had somehow come together and I understood what I needed to do to get the results I was after. I was past the most difficult part and into a zone where I could just work towards completion.
Glad for the difficulties
The thing that seemed so impossible at the outset was possible. The difficulties reminded me of what I could do. The challenges I could (and so often have) overcome. From my new position of strength, I was thankful for the experiences overcoming those difficulties brought to me.
Are you one of those people who can’t wait to get to a party so you can meet all kinds of new people and talk away the night? Do you relish networking events because you delight in the challenge of speaking to as many people as possible? If so, then this not for you.
If on the contrary, small talk and conversations with strangers in general make you want to dive as quickly as you can back under the covers, then carry on.
Open the door for conversation
If you’re not big on small talk, but you’re at a party or networking event, questions are a fairly painless way to ease into a conversation. If you can get someone talking then chances are you’ll eventually find something you can join in with. However, not all questions are created equally. Depending on how you phrase the question you could hear an extended detailed answer or it could come in the form of a single word.
Open-ended vs. closed-ended
Let’s say for example you know the person you’re talking to was at an interesting lecture the day before. You could ask the question in two general ways:
Did you have a good time last night?
How was last night?
The first version is a closed-ended question, meaning there’s a good possibility you’ll get a yes or no answer. “Yes, I had a good time.”
“How was last night?” Is an open-ended question, meaning it opens the door for further elaboration. “Last night was really interesting. The speaker had a lot to say about this that and the other. I would recommend her lectures to anyone.”
Go through the open door
From here you have options to continue the conversation. You could talk about this, that or the other or other lectures by that speaker or another.
Do you think this is a good idea?
Wait, better question: What do you think of this idea?
Starting out in your career? Trying to decide if you should work for large company or a small one? Or maybe you’re in the process of switching jobs and you can’t decide which direction to take. There are pros and cons to both.
In a big company, you’re a small cog in a large machine. As be part of a large team you’ll be expected to do one thing every well. There will be a lot of people to get to know, and more of a cushion for your learning curve because others can cover your slack.
In a small company, you’ll be part of a much smaller team. You’ll probably expected to do 2 or 3 things very well, because there are just less people available to share the burden. The team environment is small, and more intimate. The work will, at first, likely be more of a challenge.
Compensation and benefits
A big pro of going with larger company is that they’re able to provide benefits packages for full time employees that smaller companies simply can’t afford.
In terms of pay, larger places can often afford higher salaries. But sometimes smaller ones have more competitive compensation because the money is shared between less pockets. So they can afford to pay everyone well.
Room for growth
The place where small companies really shine is their room for growth. In a large established place, your road to success is regimented and likely quite slow.
With an indie company, as the company grows, so do you. If you get in on the ground floor, your career can explode much faster than at an established place, but only if the company does.
Working for an indie company might be a little riskier but there is potential for big rewards as you grow with them. It would might be safer to work in a larger, established location, but it would likely take longer to make your mark.
You will often hear that having an employment gap on your resume is bad news. It raises red flags about your ambition and your dedication to your work.
The fact is there are lots of reasons for an employment gap. Maybe you decided to take time off to travel or to go back to school. Maybe you were busy taking care of a loved one. Rather than thinking of the negative aspects of a career gap, think about the ways you can talk about it positively.
Learned new things in an nontraditional way
Let’s say you did take the time to travel. Even if you spent all your time exploring the nooks and crannies of new cities without a thought about career or professional development, you still learned new things. Talk about personal growth. Talk about learning to think on your feet. The communication skills you built talking to people from all over the world. The new perceptions you bring to life and work in this country. Frame the experience as an opportunity for personal growth.
Learned new things in a more traditional fashion
If you decided to take time off work to go back to school that’s a total plus. You realized the fast track to getting ahead is improved qualifications. You are now far more prepared for the changing employment market and bring brand new skills and determination to your new job.
Whether you took courses specifically to increase your skill set and employability or out of personal interest, the take away is you are invested in improving yourself. Talk about what your new skills/outlook bring to the job at hand. How you can’t wait to put what you’ve learned to practice.
The importance of priorities
Maybe you had to take time off to care for a loved one or yourself. Sometimes life chooses our priorities for us. When it comes times to talk about that gap during the interview quickly explain it the way and go to the positives. This is what happened. The most important thing for me during that time was X. That’s behind me now and I’m ready to focus on my career.
Just about all of us have had some good interviews and some not so good ones. If you were to dissect what went wrong at the not so good ones you’d find they were lacking certain things. We’ve compiled a list of them here.
Lack of confidence
Not everyone is born brimming with confidence, but every single one of us can certainly convey confidence. Sit up straight, maintain eye contact, don’t fidget, smile and don’t speak a mile a minute. You will appear confident.
Lack of research
If you haven’t done adequate research on the company you are applying for, how can you expect to speak intelligently about the organization or the position? Before stepping into an interview ensure you’ve Googled the company. Check them out on social media. Have a few a few facts about them that you can weave into the discussion.
Lack of preparation
There are certain questions that come up in just about every interview. If you think you can just wing them you are mistaken. Take the time to acquaint yourself with common interview questions then come up with thoughtful, intelligent answers
Lack of listening
Sometimes people get so caught up in what they want to say and how they’re going to answer the questions they expect, they don’t actually hear what the interviewer is saying. Pay close attention to the person in front of you. Ensure you are answering the question they are asking. Get into their headspace and follow their lead in terms of tone and speech pattern. If they are slow speakers, then slow down your speech. If they seem like they’re interested in elaborate, descriptive answers then provide those. If they’re more straightforward and to the point then follow suit.
Lack of enthusiasm
You might by nature be on the quiet side, but it is imperative that you convey your enthusiasm for the job and the company you’re interviewing with. That enthusiasm will come through in your tone of voice and your words. And at the end of the interview when you specifically ask for the job. As obvious as your interest may seem, given that you are sitting there interviewing for the job, it’s important of actually ask for the job. Something along the lines of, “It was a great pleasure meeting you. Given our discussion, I believe I can be a great asset to the company. I look forward to hearing back from you.”