Do Cover Letters Make a Difference In Your Job Search?

EnvelopeTime and time again my clients ask me if a cover letter is really necessary and if anyone really reads them. I’ve surveyed HR professionals, recruiters and hiring managers and the answer is a resounding YES! Of course, the cover letter has to be good, a bad cover letter can land you at the back of the pack.

What makes a good cover letter? First and foremost, it needs to be tailored to the position you’re seeking. A form letter or template that doesn’t address qualifications required in the specific position will not get you the interview. The recipient wants to see that you’re interested enough in the position to make an effort to craft a letter specifically for them.

Perhaps changing the way you think about cover letters will help when you’re writing them. In today’s competitive market, approach your resume and cover letters like marketing tools. While the resume must contain certain information like your career history, you have freedom in your cover letter to highlight whatever you think will be appealing to your audience.

Treat the cover letter as your personal brochure or advertising. When you see an ad, they’re not telling you everything there is to know about a product, the advertisers are just focusing on the aspects of the product that will get your attention and get you to buy it. So too, should your cover letter.

This means, in addition to being targeted to your audience, your cover letter should market and highlight the best aspects of your skills, abilities and experience, focusing on your personal brand and how you can make a difference for the company you’re targeting. The cover letter is a chance for you to make a strong sales pitch that can separate you from other candidates who don’t want to take the time or make the effort.


4 Must Haves for a Winning Resume

ResumeWith the hundreds of thousands of resumes floating through cyberspace, being handed out at career fairs and passed among your friends, colleagues and hopefully an ever-expanding network, how do you make sure you stand out? The following addresses the four must haves for a winning resume.

1. Targeted. When writing your resume, you must have a goal in mind, a target at which you’re aiming. As Stephen R. Covey says, “start with the end in mind.” If you don’t know what you want to do, how can you expect to get the message across to others.

From top to bottom, your resume needs to have a single purpose: if you’re looking for a sales position play up things like deals you’ve won, teams you’ve built and accounts you’ve managed; if operations is  your bag, focus on processes you’ve implemented or improved and times you’ve cut costs; if you’re in marketing, accentuate the campaigns you’ve created, the channels you’ve expanded into, the market share you’ve won. You get the idea. You want to make it easy for the reader to see that you have everything it takes to succeed in the position for which you’re vying.

2. Marketing Statement. You should begin the document with a powerful marketing statement that really emphasizes your strengths. Remember that when you’re in a job search, you are your product. Therefore, you should stress what distinguishes you in the competitive job market, or in other words, develop your personal brand. That means name dropping if you’ve got great company names in your background, underscoring significant achievements and really highlighting what makes you the best choice.

I’ve had some clients send me the resumes they’re using that are just not working for them. One of the problems, the document begins with an objective statement regarding what it is they’re looking for. Objective statements are passé, from another era. The reason why marketing statements are so much more powerful: an objective statement is about what you want while a marketing statement is about your strengths and accomplishments and how they can be of use to your target audience. It’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for them.

3. Key Words. The importance of key words is twofold. Many hiring managers, recruiters and HR departments use software to scan resumes for key words. Additionally, when you post your resume on job boards or build your profile on sites like LinkedIn, potential employers and recruiters often use key words to search for  good candidates. Besides the electronic aspect of key word searches, highlighting the key words helps the reader see the skills you bring to the table.

4. Results Oriented Accomplishments. For everything we do in our jobs, there’s a goal that you’re striving for; did you achieve it? I often see resumes that talk about what the individual did, but fail to say whether they did it successfully. Also, whenever possible it’s great to quantify your accomplishments. If you grew sales by $2 million then say that, if you reduced costs by 50% that should be in there too. Quantifying accomplishments makes them stand out and adds credibility to your achievements.

I often have clients tell me that they have trouble “blowing their own horn” or they just have a hard time telling their own story. They’ve realized the importance of having a resume that illustrates their personal brand that they can use as a marketing tool to get in front of decision makers and that’s why they’ve turned to The Imagemakers, Ink!, to help them tell a compelling story that makes them stand out from the crowd.