Don't underestimate the power of a cover letter. When well-written, attractively designed and customized for the recipient, a cover letter is a powerful tool that can practically scream, "Interview this candidate immediately!"
But when they are thrown together using little to no consideration, personalization or creativity -- as cover letters often are -- letters are as ineffective in the job hunt as blank sheets of paper.
This is a major misstep when job searching, You should take advantage of every opportunity there is to stand out from other candidates.
Writing a cover letter can be more fun than job seekers realize. With the right perspective and a positive attitude, you'll find that it affords you great flexibility. There is no one set format in which they must be written. There is no one style in which they must be presented. In fact, there are very few rules at all, and because they are so flexible, cover letters allow you to positively present just those skills, qualifications, achievements and credentials you want to bring to the recipient's immediate attention.
There are a variety of ways job seekers can get creative with their cover letters and bring them to life in ways they never considered. Here are few of these techniques:
1. Find out what your target employer's slogan, catch phrase or mission statement is and brainstorm ways to include it in your cover letter's introduction. This technique will quickly capture the reader's attention, demonstrate that you are familiar with the employer and stand out from other candidates' one-size-fits-all cover letters.
2. Add a table or two-column section that closely connects the employer's requirements to your qualifications and professional achievements. This strategy will quickly provide the employer with concrete evidence that you're a good fit for the job and worth learning more about.
3. Begin with a thought-provoking quote relevant to the position, the employer's goals or your target industry. Many people love to read, share and ponder quotes. Including one in your cover letter can be a quick and effective way to engage the reader.
4. Feature a strong headline near the beginning of the cover letter. To keep it brief, yet powerful, address one of the employer's key concerns or spotlight your expertise or an attribute that will be particularly appealing to the employer.
5. Develop your own slogan or mission statement and include it near the top of your cover letter. This technique will enhance your career brand and stand out much like a headline would. To draw even more attention to the phrase, place it inside a graphic element that is attractive and appropriate.
6. Add a "P.S." to the end of your cover letter. Often, it's the first thing a person will read.
7. Include testimonials about you in the body of your cover letter or in an attractive sidebar. Testimonials will emphasize your skills and achievements and support claims you make about your expertise and why you're the best candidate for the job.
More on this can be found at Selena Dehne Search and Career Blog (http://jistjobsearchandcareer.blogspot.com/).
10 Tips for Writing a Professional Résumé
1. Start with an attractive layout. Use bold and italics to highlight key points. I do not recommend downloadable templates because they are very generic and dull. Get creative but not crazy. You can use a little touch of color if you are modest.
2. Justify the text instead of using left align. Most people are accustomed to reading justified text. This will make your résumé easy to follow.
3. Choose a common font. Times New Roman, Arial, and Verdana are some of the best fonts for a résumé. Now is not the time to experiment. Most computers do not have 600 different fonts installed so the file will not read correctly if you use your decorative fonts. Do not use cutesy graphics such as candy canes or teddy bears if you want to be taken seriously. (Yes, I have really received a résumé with teddy bears and candy canes on it.) It is NOT appropriate for business correspondence, and I guarantee your résumé will be canned if you do this.
4. Do not use the word "I" in your résumé. Start each sentence with a powerful verb. For example:
- Organized annual student symposium by securing speakers and working closely with marketing department executives.
- Implemented production bonus incentives and "best practices" matrix for all divisions, raising overall productivity by as much as 40 percent.
5. Write a proper cover letter for each position to which you apply. Do not ever send out a résumé without a cover letter. This is basic business etiquette. Personalize each cover letter directly to the position you are applying to. A generic cover letter will not work to your benefit. If possible, address the letter directly to a person. If you do not know the hiring manager's name, use "Hiring Manager."
6. Print your résumé and read it word-for-word. You can use the grammar and spell check function, but don't rely on it.
7. When you have a degree, list only the year that you obtained your degree. When you list your dates of attendance, many résumé scanning systems will not recognize that you obtained a degree, only that you attended college for a period.
8. Deactivate all e-mail links and Web addresses in your résumé and cover letter. To do this in Microsoft Word, highlight the link with your mouse, go to the "Insert" drop-down menu, scroll down to and click "Hyperlink", and on the lower left-hand side of this screen there should be a little button that says "Remove link." When you find it, give it a little click and voila! Alternatively, you can highlight the link with your mouse, right click on it, and scroll down to "remove link" to deactivate the link.
9. Be consistent! For example, don't list one date as 1/2005 and then list another date as 9/22/2005. List software consistently, too. MS Word and Microsoft Excel are both correct, but not consistent when used together.
10. Adhere to punctuation and capitalization rules. Use a reference manual if you do not understand standard punctuation and capitalization rules.
For more you can also log on to www.jennanthony.info
CONCEAL Your Résumé Weakness
If you're job hunting, the last thing you need is weakness in your résumé. Any bit of negative information can keep you from landing your ideal job. Issues such as lack of a college degree or minimal job experience don't have to hinder your efforts. All you need to do is work a little résumé magic.
Here are some tips to help you create a winning résumé.
Format is Everything
So, you've been unemployed for the past seven months. The last thing you want to do is draw attention to those dates. Instead, focus your résumé to highlight your abilities. By listing your skills over your experience, you're highlighting those areas that are most important.
There are basically three types of résumé formats: chronological, functional and combination. When trying to hide your flaws, avoid the traditionally used chronological format that is organized by your employment history. This format will draw attention to negative aspects such as employment gaps or limited work history.
There are two formats that will conceal résumé weaknesses well: functional and combination.
A functional résumé lists skills categories and accomplishments over dates. Instead of listing job experience, the résumé would present categories relating to skills. For instance, if you are a medical transcriptionist, you could list "Transcription" as one of the categories and detail your words per minute and your accuracy record. You might also list your computer skills and software proficiency. While this style works well to hide weaknesses, employers typically get frustrated while reading them because they can't figure out where or how you gained your experience and abilities.
The best alternative is the combination résumé, which is a style I use quite often. It merges the chronological and functional résumé styles by presenting your knowledge and abilities gained from work experience in reverse chronological order. The benefit to this format is that it still looks familiar to the chronological style that most employers are accustomed to reading while emphasizing your applicable skills.
How to Stand Out from the Crowd
What makes you unique? If you're talented in unexpected areas, bring these to light on your résumé. Whether you spent years as a file clerk, or flipped burgers, you still have skills. Highlight these. How did you contribute at past places of employment? Detail your achievements and honors.
Do you speak another language? Can you troubleshoot a faulty computer? Do you have the ability to soothe ruffled feathers? These are all assets and should be listed as such. If you love to spend hours surfing the Net, detail your research skills. If you enjoy a good conversation, talk up your people skills. Surely, there are plenty of ways to set you apart from the competition.
If you just graduated from school or don't have much in the way of employment experience, fear not -- you still have skills. At which courses did you excel? What papers received high marks? Did you win the high school science fair? These are all worthwhile résumé contributions.
If you want to be called in for an interview, your résumé has to stand out. Even if you don't have as much experience as your peers, or a mottled work history, you can still make this happen!
When thinking about your future, your career is only one part of a bigger equation. The decisions you make regarding your job are
always going to affect your personal life, and vice-versa. It can be easy to slip into the habit of thinking only about how jobs lookon paper, but you have to remember what that change will mean inother areas of your life.
For example, something that can hold a lot of sway over your family and leisure time is the particular shifts that you work. You may
apply for a dream job with a sky-high salary, only to find out that you would have to work the graveyard shift. Or you may find a job
that isn't your first choice, but lets you work during the day while your children are at school.
Another factor to examine is the level of activity required by that job. Waitresses have long complained of back pain, feet tenderness,
and arthritis. Therefore, if you have very small children, a job of that nature may make it impossible to pick them up or get them out of their crib.
It's common to have to accept a less than desirable job because of the opportunity to move up as you get older. Think about where you
want to be one day. Does the job you are considering enable a clear path to that goal? Or will it simply present you with several inconvenient roadblocks?
Something that you always want to keep in mind is whether a job will be good for your family and your happiness. If an employer
simply won't allow you to visit your mother on Sundays, even though you have long held that tradition, you may want to think
carefully about accepting it. It may not lead you to the joy that you are seeking.