Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Can a Resume Writing Service Write Your Cover Letter?

Many job applicants use a resume writing service to write their resume from scratch or to improve their current resume. I don't see anything wrong with this with one BIG exception. I strongly discourage my clients from using such a service to create their cover letter.

Here's why...

Although most resume writing services offer cover letter creation as an add on service or even throw it in for free, they are almost never exceptionally adept at doing so.

The cover letter is the very first thing a hiring manager is going to see. In fact, many hiring managers don't bother to read all the resumes they get when they have a lot of applications for a single job. They go through the pile and narrow it down based on the cover letter alone.

What does this mean?

The cover letter is often more important than the resume in getting you on the "short list" and getting you the interview.

Creating an exceptional professional resume requires a different skill set than preparing an exceptional cover letter. Yes, the better resume writing services are skilled writers but they are more adept at technical writing than with writing advertising copy.

And... to get on the short list in this competitive job market what you need is exceptional advertising copy. You need marketing language with a call to action. You need language in a 1/2 to 3/4 page cover letter (with lots of white space) to succinctly sell YOU and convince the hiring manager that he or she needs to meet you in person. You need time tested marketing magic.

This is why I always recommend to my clients that they use the cover letter software that I review at the top of this page to create their cover letter, even if they have hired a professional resume writing service. For those who do both and end up with 2 cover letters to compare side by side, they always choose, without exception, the cover letter that is created with this particular software (there is other cover letter creating software out there but I've never found one that worked as well as this one).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Is It Ok To Use a Generic Cover Letter?

A client asked me recently, "Is it ok to use a generic cover letter?"

What do you think? Do you think that cover letters don't really matter and they're just something you slap on  top of your resume?

Absolutely not! In fact, the cover letter can actually be MORE important to getting you the interview.

Do you think that someone who is applying to be an office manager should use the same generic cover letter as someone else applying for a teaching position?

NO! of course not! Your cover letter should be very specifically tailored not only to the type of position you are apply for but for the specific place you are applying as well.

The cover letter software that I review at the top of this page is programmed to produce industry specific keywords in addition to the marketing magic that will get the hiring managers attention. It will also ask you the right questions to help tailor it to the specific place you are applying.

We are in a really competitive job market - more competitive than it has been in decades. Hiring managers get so many applications they just aren't able to review every resume so they do the next best thing - they read all the cover letters first. If you submit a generic cover letter, I'm afraid you are drastically cutting down your chances that you will be called for an interview. Check out the software and see if you think it could help you. I know it has helped many of my clients.

Friday, July 29, 2011

An Interview Tip That WIll Help Land You the Job

Once you've used your cover letter to get your foot in the door and gotten the interview, you are more than 90% on your way to getting the job. However, you will still need to beat out a few other candidates. Here is an interview tip that make you go right to the top of the hiring committee's list.

Arrive at the interview at least 20 minutes early and spend some time looking at the various plaques and awards on the walls. Most companies are involved in committee projects or friendly competitions with other companies. Some companies have some staff that do volunteer work on behalf of the company. You will usually find some mention of this hanging on the walls. Even if it's not prominently displayed, you may be able to find it if you look hard enough. You may also be able to find this type of information by searching through the archives of the local newspaper, especially if they are involved in community projects. Trust me, it is well worth the effort to find this information.

During the interview, ask questions about these activities and tell them that you would love to become involved in these activities. You may be able to even suggest a special skill that you might have that could help them with these activities. Don't assume that the company you are interviewing with is ALL about making money. After all, these are human beings. Companies usually take great pride in the community work they do and in their bowling leagues or baseball teams where they compete with other companies. Your interest will not only show them that you are a team player but it will also allow you to chat with them in a slightly less formal way which "humanizes" you. It gives you the opportunity to make a personal connection and, like I've said before, people hire people they like - even if not consciously, they do so subconsciously.

Good luck and don't forget to check out the cover letter help software.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Should I Use a More Creative Font In My Cover Letter If I'm Applying For a Creative Job?

I get quite a few clients who are applying for graphic design jobs and they often ask, "Should I use a more creative font on my cover letter if I'm in a creative field?" and "Should I use a more creative font on my resume?" Sometimes they ask questions like, "Should I stick with a professional but boring font like Times New Romain or Arial or can I use something more interesting?"

The short answer is "no." You should always stick with a more traditional professional font in your cover letter and resume. Yes, I know it's "boring" but boring will help get you the job in this case.This is true for two reasons:

First, even if you are applying for a creative job, your application packet will likely be reviewed by "business types" who may not appreciate your "creativity" shown by a non-traditional font. You can always include samples of your creative work to show your creativity. If you do so, be sure to mention this on your cover letter. Keep in mind this is how you will likely be expected to deal with clients too. In a business letter to a client, you would almost always use a traditional font even if you are performing creative services for them.

Second, you need to keep the goal of the cover letter (and resume) in mind. You want those reviewing your application to notice you and select you for the interview out of all the other applicants. These days potential employers get so many applications, they have to scan through them very quickly. You want your cover letter to be very easily read at a glance. In other words, the purpose of the cover letter is to entice them to want to look deeper - to want to see samples of your work and talk with you in person. The purpose of the cover letter is NOT to show off your creative skills. Hopefully, that makes sense.

Now, if you want a perfectly worded and perfectly formatted cover letter, I highly recommend this software.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What To Do If They Say Don't Submit a Cover Letter?

Although still not in the majority, some companies require that all job applications be submitted electronically. In some of these cases, they specifically state that they do NOT want a cover letter included. Several of my clients at the job center have complained that this does not allow them to use the secret cover letter weapon we have discovered.

However, I want you to know that you can still use the secret cover letter trick in these cases. In fact, you can use it in 2 different ways:

1. Go ahead and use the cover letter help software I review at the top of this page to create a cover letter. Next, take this cover letter and modify it slightly and then use it to send a personal message directly to the hiring manager or another person at the company that will be influential in the hiring decision. Remember, the software creates perfectly worded marketing phrases specifically designed to entice those reading your cover letter to want to meet you and invite you in for an interview. This can work just as well (maybe better) in a personal email as in an "official" cover letter.

2. The software is designed to generate key industry specific vocabulary. You can create the cover letter using the software and then make sure that these industry specific words and phrases are included in the resume and other materials that require you submit electronically. Remember, companies often use programs to scan and rank applications. It would be really advantageous to include the industry keywords and key phrases generated by the software in your electronic submission to help your application will rank at the top of the list.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Woman Wins $50,000 While Seaching For a Job!

Yesterday, I was listening to the NPR show, "Talk of the Nation."  They were talking about people who had been out of work for a very long time and how they finally found work (yes, there is hope I promise). One woman they interviewed said that she decided to go on the TV game show, "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" to make some money to tide her over while she kept searching for a job. She ended up winning $50,000 and she used this information to answer the question, "What have you been doing since your last job?" in the job interview. How's THAT for an interesting answer! It landed her the job by the way.

Well, while I loved hearing her story, I can tell you that most job seekers are not so lucky. In fact, according to several statistical studies, the odds of actually getting a job goes down significantly each month you remain unemployed. After 6 months, it becomes extremely difficult to land a job. On this same talk show, they reported that many employers actually advertise job listings that openly state that only employed people should apply. Only one state, New York, has made this practice illegal but I personally hope that all the other states will follow suit. I believe this is another type of discrimination that should not be tolerated. Many employers assume that there must be something wrong with a job candidate if they haven't had a job for a while. However, this just isn't true and you CAN turn it around I promise - I know because I work in a job center.

So what is the answer if you have been unemployed for a long time? How DO you get a job under these dire circumstances? What can you change that will make the difference?

I have good news for you - in fact, great news for you. I have worked with many job candidates that have been desperately searching for a job for more than 6 months with no luck (even if they are willing to take a big pay cut) that HAVE turned it around. Through working with these fine individuals, I have discovered that the single most effective change you can make is a radical change to your cover letter - a complete do over. Submitting a totally unique custom cover letter that contains persuasive marketing language that makes those reviewing the applications want to meet you can easily increase your odds 1000% or more. This is no exaggeration. I have seen it work many times.

I've worked with job candidates that were never called in for an interview suddenly start getting called in for interview after interview as soon as they changed their cover letter. Once you start getting called in for interviews, the odds of getting the job improve drastically. If you want to read how I discovered this originally and why I think it works so well,  you can read my post, "Cover Letter Templates - Should I Use them?"

Most people can not write the kind of cover letter I'm referring to but this software (which I review at the top of this page) produces really impressive perfectly worded and very unique cover letters in just a few minutes. Literally all you do is answer some questions and then hit a button. I can't even begin to tell you how happy it is has made many of my clients. It really does make a big difference. You can go here and review it for yourself.

Good luck to you - I'm sure your luck will change soon.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cover Letter Templates - Should I Use Them?

Almost every new client that comes into my office that already has a job application prepared has included a cover letter that is a modified version of a cover letter template they found somewhere, usually on the internet or in a book.

Using a cover letter template does have the advantage of being able to easily and quickly create a cover letter than sounds professional. It also has the advantage of showing you a format that looks professional.

However, is sounding and looking professional enough to make the right impression?

Short answer: No, definitely not. You should not use cover letter templates in my opinion which is based on my experience helping my clients... let me explain...

Early on working in a job center, I found an obvious trend that remained a mystery to me (and my colleagues) for a long while but I finally figured it out....

The trend I was seeing was that for many jobs, candidates that were obviously LESS qualified were getting called for interviews over candidates who were obviously MORE qualified... and... they the obviously less qualified candidates were often getting hired over the obviously more qualified candidates. I just did not make sense at first and it happened so often I became very determined to find out why. In fact, it was such a mystery to me I started following up and calling the hiring managers at the various companies and I reviewed and re-reviewed the applications of both the successful and unsuccessful candidates. I also interviewed again many of the job applicants to determine if I could find any factors that might not show up on the applications.

In general, here is what I found....

First, I had initially suspected that this apparent mystery might be explained by who knew who, i.e. perhaps less qualified candidates were getting the interviews and jobs because of who they knew or perhaps who their family and/or friends knew. Surprisingly, this seemed to matter in only a very few cases so it was definitely not what was causing the general trend.

Second, other factors that you might think would be the top factors on who got called in for the interview: the quality of the resumes, the amount of work experience, education and special training, the quality of references, etc did NOT seem to matter as much as you might think. I don't mean to say they don't matter at all because of course they do to some degree but they don't seem to matter anywhere near as much as the conventional wisdom would indicate. I say this because I saw a large number of exceptions where the very best candidate that would shine above all the others in all or most of the factors listed above would not even get called in for an interview where another candidate who was obviously less qualified based on the factors listed above would get called in for an interview and even often get hired.

Third, after a while I finally figured out that the factor that actually seemed to be making the biggest difference was the lowly cover letter that most people didn't put much thought into except to make it sound and look professional (i.e. a modified template).... AND FURTHERMORE... it was NOT necessarily the most "professional" sounding cover letter that that was winning the most interviews. It tended to be cover letters that were totally unique and were not modeled after a template - totally different. It tended to be cover letters that did a good job in somehow "marketing" the candidate and enticing those that were reviewing the applications to want to meet them in a person. Of course, actually getting invited in for an interview is more than 90% of the battle most of the time! You essentially get your foot in the door and it's not all that difficult to get hired at that point.

Here's the key to what I found: Hiring managers and others reviewing these applications are often so inundated with applications, especially now is this incredibly tight job market, they simply don't have time to review carefully each and every resume, call all the references, etc for every candidate. Most of the time, they reduce narrow down the applications by reading the cover letters. If they are really intrigued by the cover letter, then they often just pick up the phone and invite you in immediately (sometimes even unofficially BEFORE the formal interviews), or at the least, they will review the rest of your application more carefully if they like your cover letter.

I have used this software to help many of my clients create a totally unique cover letter that also contains the marketing language needed to entice the hiring manager to call them in for an interview.  Almost no one can write in a style that will produce a more effective cover letter than what this software can produce in a matter of minutes. Sometimes we customize these letters a bit more but we get the "magical" marketing language by using this software. I should note that the software is designed to incorporate the appropriate "buzz words" for each major job industry. I also like how easy it is to use this software. I have tried other software but I've found this to produce the highest quality and most effective cover letters. You can check out this software for yourself by clicking here. My "mini-review" is found at the top of this page.

Good luck to you. I know how tough it can be but just you just need to persevere!