Three Ways Your Cover Letter is Hurting Your Chance for a New Job

For many people, sending a resume is one thing. Then, when you read the job posting and it asks for a cover letter, you just kind of put one together and hope for the best. Rather than doing this, it’s better to take some time on this document. Putting time in on the front-end will save you time and effort for each future job opportunity. However, even though you think you have a top-notch cover letter, here are three cover letter mistakes that I consistently see from clients that really hurt their chances of landing that job interview.

Your cover letter format is different than your resume format. The fonts are different, headings don’t match, and the consistency just isn’t there. When the formats don’t align, it looks like you are not consistent with anything. This is your first impression and shows that you don’t have an attention to details. Instead, copy and paste your heading from the resume to the cover letter file and ensure fonts, colors (if used), and formatting is the same. This shows cohesion, organization, and alignment with your documents.

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You addressed the cover letter “To Whom It May Concern.” I like to think of this as the ultimate deal-breaker. If you can’t take the time to find out the appropriate contact person or even just say, “Dear Human Resources Manager,” then you are not worth calling in for an interview. That may sound harsh, but hiring managers need to find an easy way to weed people out and this is one of the easiest. To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir or Madam are old-fashioned and tired phrases that shouldn’t be used in today’s job market.

Every paragraph starts with the word “I.” After you write your cover letter, quickly scan the left margin and count the number of times you used the word “I.” If it’s more than twice, then you need to rewrite some of the verbiage. Remember—it’s all about the employer—not you. By starting with the word “I,” you are making it about yourself. Use the you-attitude and think of what you can do for the company and how your skills will help them. Mention things like “your company,” “your needs,” “your unique vision,” etc.

Remember that the cover letter is one of the first items that an HR leader reads. Make a great first impression so they are interested enough to keep reading and find out more about your skill-set and how you can successfully impact the organization.

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2 Key Steps to Take after a Job Interview

You were nervous and edgy during the few days prior to that job interview. However, they liked your resume, you connected with both interviewers during the hour-long process, and you feel like the interview went well. Now what? Do you just wait for the phone call letting you know that they can’t function without you? Or, do you wait for the email that tells you they have found a better candidate? The answer is NO to both questions. In my opinion, there are three key steps to take after a job interview.

#1 – Follow up. Following up (in life and in business) is the key to success. You think it went well? You thought of something else that you could have mentioned? You really hit it off with the interviewer? Send a thank you card.

While email is great—it’s efficient—a handwritten thank you card is a classy way to show that you are thankful for the interview. Send this the day after your interview. That will ensure that the recipient receives it within a few days and once again puts your name at the top of the pile.

If you aren’t sure what to mention, think of how you align with the potential position and mention something specific from the interview. And, if you were interviewed by more than one person, be sure to send each interviewer his/her own thank you card.

#2 – Continue to search. While this may be your dream job, you also need to realize that there may be another candidate that is more suited for the role. They most likely didn’t interview you and then call the rest of the interviewees to cancel their scheduled times. And—neither should you. Sometimes you don’t know the potential merits of working with an organization until after you have met the people that work there, toured the facility, and really conversed with your potential co-workers.

One last tip – think of each job interview as an opportunity to hone your message. While there are few people that want to be professional interviewees, the truth is that the more you do it, the better you will become. In fact, most people get really nervous prior to a job interview. However, if you are able to craft a dynamic elevator pitch, understand your strengths, and create positive responses, you will be even better prepared for the next interview.

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Three Interview Tips for Success

Over the years, I have had the privilege of interviewing many job candidates. These candidates have been applying for a wide variety of positions – everything from an entry-level position to someone that will have an esteemed position within a university. While the positions may have been different, there are several interview mistakes to avoid that will harm your prospects – no matter what the job.

First, be sure to leave your cell phone in the car. Several years ago, I was part of an interview panel where the interviewee brought her cell phone into the conference room. Not only that, but she put the cell phone directly on the table in front of her and constantly watched it as if she was waiting for an important call. This was a job interview! If she had something vitally important happening in her life, then perhaps she should have rescheduled the appointment.

Second, be sure to dress professionally. What does this mean? It can mean something different for each company. Don’t be afraid to ask what you should wear to the job interview. And, I’ve never heard of anyone not getting a job because they dressed too professionally during an interview.

Finally, be sure you know the interviewer. Take time to find out who the interviewer (or interviewers) may be, research their LinkedIn profile, and understand their role within the organization. And, don’t forget to look around his or her office for hints into their personality. If you notice something you have in common, this may be a good time to mention it. Find commonalities and build up on them during the interview.

There are many things to consider when going to a job interview. No matter the type of job, be sure to be professional and positive during the process. Following these three tips will get you one step closer to landing the job.

Sending a Thank You after the Job Interview: What to Include in the E-mail Text

Imagine that you have just completed a job interview and it went fairly well. You are happy with your answers and are hopeful for a positive phone call from the prospective employer. Instead of waiting for that phone call and hoping for the best, you can do one more thing to make yourself stand out from the rest of the interviewees—send a thank you note to the interviewer.

Sending a thank you note to the potential employer serves two purposes. First, it illustrates your good manners and shows that you appreciate the time the interviewer gave to you. The second purpose of the thank you is to put your name in front of the employer one more time. If you are one of three people interviewed and you are the only interviewee that sends a thank you note, your name may jump to the top of the employee pile.

Many people wonder what to include in the thank you note. The key is to be concise and positive in your approach. Utilize the information below to craft a basic thank you letter that could be sent via e-mail and improve your chances at landing your dream job.

LETTER EXAMPLE

Dear {insert interviewer name}:

Thank you for taking time to meet with me on Monday, January xx. It was a pleasure to learn more about you and your organization.

Our meeting further piqued my interest in {insert name of organization}. The organization’s past achievements and successes prove that the business is poised for the future. My qualifications are a perfect match with the direction of the company. As a dedicated, professional, and forward-thinking employee, I know I could bring additional leadership to your team.

Once again, please note that I am extremely interested in the {insert position title} position. If you have any additional questions about my skills, abilities, and qualifications, please contact me at {insert phone number}. Thank you and I look forward to your positive response!

Sincerely,

{insert your name}

Importance of Sending Thank You Notes

When is the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? If you are like most people, it has probably been quite some time since you have received a genuine “thank you” or anything that is handwritten. If you put these two things together, you really have a chance to make an impression.

I recently provided two gift certificates to a local benefit. A community member is battling a serious illness and an acquaintance asked if I would be willing to donate to this cause. After donating the two gift certificates, I certainly didn’t expect anything in return. However, I recently received a handwritten thank you card from the person that was honored at the benefit.

Receiving this thank you note was a great surprise. In fact, it is so seldom that we receive a genuine “thank you,” that we forget what it is like to be appreciated. Think of the impact a thank you note could have on a potential employer or someone that was able to provide you with a valuable referral. Then, think of putting that “thank you” in writing—your name will be in front of that individual for an even longer period of time.

The next time you have a job interview, be sure to send a thank you note. Or, when you meet someone at a networking event, send a thank you card and let them know that it was a great experience to meet them. A thank you note can provide more than just a polite gesture; it may be the key to building a potentially valuable working relationship.

Should I Follow-Up After My Resume is Sent?

One of the common questions I hear from clients is, “I sent my resume two weeks ago and haven’t heard anything. Do you think I should contact the company?” My answer: YES! Whether you dropped off an application in-person or sent documents via e-mail, following up can show your continued interest in the open position.

Following up after you send in application materials is an important part of the job searching process. Rather than thinking of it as “bothering” the potential employer, think of it as another way for the company to get-to-know-you.

What if you sent your information via e-mail and the files fell into the e-mail abyss? When I was hiring for a position at a former workplace, a potential candidate called to verify we had received her e-mail. Because I was very busy and hadn’t thoroughly checked, I scanned through my e-mail in-box when she was on the telephone. I soon discovered we had received her e-mail—with no attachment. I told her to re-send it with the attachment and then we would review her materials. It turns out that she was the most qualified person for the position and she was hired within the next two weeks. If she hadn’t called to verify receipt of her information, the job would have gone to someone else and we would have missed out on a valuable employee.

If you have sent your resume via e-mail and have not heard anything within one week, consider calling the company. Below is a script you can use during your phone inquiry:

Hi, this is Heather Rothbauer-Wanish. I applied for the __________ position via e-mail on September 28. First, I wanted to verify you received my application materials. (At this point, the person checks to see if the materials are in-house) Have any decisions been made regarding the position or is it still open? (The person will then let you know if they have hired someone or are still seeking an employee) That’s great to hear the position is still available; I’m still very interested in becoming the ______________ and look forward to hearing from the company in the near future. If you decide you need additional materials from me to make a decision, please contact me. Thank you!

Don’t question IF you should follow-up after you have sent your resume. This is part of the application process. Remember to be professional and appropriate with your response. After all, this follow-up is your chance to shine and move your information to the top of the applicant pool!