Thursday, November 7, 2013 Insider - 10 Tips for Writing Cover Letters

10 Tips For Writing Cover Letters

“What’s more important a resume or a cover letter?”

Job seekers ask the above question regularly, but they mistakenly believe the word “or” is appropriate. That’s because a resume and a cover letter are equal parts of a two-part package. A substandard resume weakens an excellent cover letter and vice-versa the same way that a substandard suit jacket or pair of suit pants weakens the other part of the two-part dress clothes package.

Research Network Insider recently posted an advice column entitled “10 Tips For Writing Your Resume.” Its tips for writing cover letters include:

1. MAKE EACH ONE DIFFERENT: Research Network Insider advocated preparing more than one resume in its “Writing Your Resume” column. Preparing cover letters is more difficult because you MUST prepare a different cover letter for each employer. “Make each one different” does not mean preparing a template and leaving a blank for each letter’s specific employer. Each cover letter MUST demonstrate that you are very knowledgeable about the employer you are writing to.

2. RESEARCH EACH EMPLOYER: This is mandatory regardless of whether the letter is a response to a job opening or a pro-active effort to inform a company that you're interested in working there. Learning about employers will make your letter more specific, could convince the employer that you're genuinely interested in the company, and could prevent you from writing letters to companies that you now know don’t match your skills and interests.

3. ADDRESS A SPECIFIC PERSON: Make sure the cover letter is addressed to the RIGHT specific person. You might find the Research Department's supervisor via Internet research. You might also need to phone the company. Neither the envelope nor cover letter should be addressed to “Sir” or “Madam,” according to the career development centers of the State University of New York at Oneonta, Temple (Pa.) University, and the College of William & Mary (Va.). And you should find the specific name of “to whom it may concern.”

Introduce yourself at the beginning of the letter as if you were introducing yourself at the beginning of a conversation. Talk about your interest in the job and the company as if you were in the middle of an interview throughout the letter. “Be as personal as possible,” recommends William & Mary.

5. BE CONCISE: Most experts recommend a one-page cover letter. In the “Writing Your Resume” column, we mentioned that employers only spend about 30 seconds reviewing a resume. They probably spend longer reviewing a cover letter, but they are still busy.

6. PRAISE THE EMPLOYER: You’ve researched the employer so you should have found specific things about the employer that you like. Write why you're interested in the company. Are you applying for a market research position and you have learned that the company has been ranked one of the best market research companies? The employer might be impressed that you know that.

Relate how two or three examples of your past accomplishments are pertinent to the job opening or the job that you want. Look at this from the employer’s perspective. “Tell an employer why they will benefit from hiring you, not what you are going to gain from their company,” is how the Career Services Department of Pepperdine (Calif.) University puts it.

: Writing style is important. Use action verbs whenever possible instead of passive verbs like is and are because skills are more important than responsibilities. “I directed a campaign that saved my company $100,000” is much better than “I was the leader of a campaign that saved my company $100,000.” The William & Mary website lists dozens of action verbs.

irect the employer to your resume, which should be behind your cover letter in the same package, at the end of the letter and ask for a job interview. Make clear that you intend to follow up the letter with a phone call or e-mail within a short period of time. If there's a job opening, you should phone within a week.

10. DON’T GIVE UP: Make sure that you do make a follow-up phone call. Sending a second cover letter to a company you’re interested in can’t hurt if no one responded to your first letter. Writing to a second person should also be considered.

Sources:; SPECIFIC LINK FOR RESUME COLUMN (must be inserted in fourth paragraph);;;;

Friday, October 25, 2013 Insider - 10 Tips for Writing Your Resume

10 Tips For Writing Your Resume

“Who gets the job is not always the one who can do the job best, but who knows best how to get the job!”
รข€‹ State University of New York Oneonta Career Development Center

As an employer, I knew the importance of a resume. On numerous occasions, I looked at a resume quickly, saw mistakes or sloppiness, and never looked at that resume again. Is that fair? Probably not because employers should be looking for someone who will be reliable and productive 40 hours per week for at least a few years and a bad resume (or a bad interview) doesn’t mean a prospective employee can’t be reliable and productive.

But life isn’t fair. Employers are busy. While writing this article, in fact, I learned that the average employer spends about 30 seconds looking at a resume, according to the career development offices of Temple(Pa.) University and the Collegeof William & Mary (Va.). Thus, someone who writes a good resume might have more of an edge in “who knows best how to get the job!” than I thought.

Research Network Insider’s
tips for writing a resume include:

A one-page resume is preferable -- and not just because employers only spend an average of 30 seconds looking at a resume. Longtime executives often have only one-page resumes so your accomplishments and experiences must be extremely impressive to justify a two-page resume. If they’re not, you risk looking very arrogant.

Your resume should be on high-quality paper and look like an original copy from a laser printer rather than a Xeroxed copy. Using colored paper rather than white paper might make your resume more noticeable. William & Mary recommends cream-colored paper.

List your objective below your name and contact information and above your occupational and educational experiences. It should match the job you’re applying for. Keep copies of the first resume you wrote in your computer and change the objective on the copies you send to employers whose openings don’t match the objective on your original resume.

4. PREPARE DIFFERENT RESUMES: The reasoning for this tip is the same as the reasoning for Tip No. 3. One resume might emphasize your research skills and include academic and volunteer projects, while another resume might emphasize your on-the-job accomplishments. The chronology of your past jobs should be the same, but what you write about those jobs could be different.

5. USE ACTION VERBS: This is THE most important advice Research Network Insider can give. Don’t focus on job titles and promotions. Employers want to know what your skills are -- what you can do for THEM. Thus, writing that you supervised 10 people on a ‘research project’ is not nearly as impressive as writing about the project’s specific accomplishments.

6. THINK ABOUT ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Think outside the box. Think about what you did in college and in your community and charitable activities and whether that relates to jobs you are applying for. There are innumerable action verbs that can describe your accomplishments. The William & Mary website lists dozens of action verbs that you can use.

7. CONSIDER LISTING SKILLS: Your skills should be emphasized in each chronological entry, whether it be occupational or academic, but having a separate Skills section could also be beneficial. Note that the William & Mary website has action verbs for leadership, communication, research, technical, teaching, and organizational skills.

8. DON’T BE NEGATIVE: Ever. There is no reason to explain that you left Job X because your employer was a jerk. Your next prospective employer might not care and might think negatively of you for bringing up the topic.

9. EDIT: And then edit again. And again. And again. Editing as much as possible limits your mistakes and makes you think more about making changes that will improve your resume.

Your resume’s last line should be in a different font and say something like “I have four references who can be contacted about my skills.” Write your references with their contact information on a separate piece of paper and provide that paper only if asked. Make sure three or four people are available to be your references and are prepared to discuss your skills.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 Insider - Five Questions To Ask In Job Interviews -Insider - July 10, 2013

Five Questions To Ask In Job Interviews

Can I have three weeks off every three months to pursue my music career?

Do I have to be at work every day?

Can my husband finish this test for me?

These were questions asked by prospective employees during a job interview, according to human resources managers surveyed by the staffing company Robert Half International. The market researchers, research scientists and other researchers who use Research Network's jobs board are smart enough to know that those questions are inappropriate, but do you know the right questions to ask?

In my last blog for Research Network, "The Five Do's And Five Don'ts For Job Interviews," I wrote that you should research the employer and the job's responsibilities. Consequently, many of the questions you ask during an interview should be very specific because they should be based on your research. Only you can write those questions, but with the help of job search experts I can write five questions you should ask and provide you the links to many other useful questions.

The questions include:

1. Can you tell me more about your company's plan to (fill in specific based on your research)?: The plan you ask about should be about something important like a new product, service, manufacturing plant, office, etc., rather than something that pertains to you. This question indicates that you have researched the company. Prospective employers are more apt to hire someone who shows (not tells) an interest in the company.

2. Can you tell me the biggest benefit of your training programs?: You should ask this question after talking about the programs -- and showing your interest in the company again. A good answer could give you an insight into your possible career path in the company. If you didn't learn anything about training programs during your research, asking a general question about them before a job offer is better than asking about salary, benefits and vacation, according to a CareerBuilder article.

3. What is the job's most important priority?: You should ask this question after making it clear that you know what previous researchers with your prospective job title did for the company. You will again be showing your interest in the employer and says it could help you "be on the same page" as your boss.

4. How would you define "success" for this position?: I got this question directly from a Forbes magazine article. A good answer by the interviewer could give you a good insight into the employer and gives you a chance to explain how your skills will make you a successful employee.

5. What's the next step?: This is your most important question. You should ask it after you express your enthusiasm for the job as the interview is ending. The question gives you an opportunity to ascertain whether the employer is considering a second interview with you and whether you should keep in contact with the company via phone or e-mail. Monster recommends asking for the best time to phone. And, as I mentioned in my "Do's and Don'ts" blog, don't forget to send Thank You notes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 Insider - Five Do's And Five Don'ts For Job Interviews -Insider - June 26, 2013

Five Do's And Five Don'ts For Job Interviews

Getting a job interview has never been a problem for you, but getting a job offer has.

Perhaps, your approach to interviews is wrong. Did you know that preparing for an interview is the most crucial part of the interview process? Thinking about interviews years in advance can help you decide which courses to take in school and which lower-level job opportunities to accept.

Job interview experts who have studied the entire process have compiled a list of do’s and don’t for the job interview process.

The do’s include:

1. Think Like An Interviewer: Envisioning yourself as your interviewers can help you think about their perspective and the questions they will ask. Thus, you will think about answers to specific questions. Lehigh (Pa.) University’s Career Services Department recommends practicing your answers out loud and arranging mock interviews with job counselors who have the expertise to ask excellent questions.

2. Research The Employer: Your answers will be better if they include facts about the employer. More importantly, your interest in the company will impress the interviewer. The UC-San Diego’s Department of Economics & Economics Leadership Council recommends researching the company, your interviewers’ job responsibilities, and what people with the job title you’re interviewing for do.

3. Discuss Pertinent Accomplishments: Convincing interviewers that you can help the company is easier if you talk about specific past accomplishments that are relevant to the job vacancy rather than your best achievements. UC-San Diego says an interview is about “how you can help the company achieve its goals, not how the company can help you achieve yours.”

4. Listen Carefully: Listening is often more important than talking in interviews. You should be particularly careful about answering questions directly and concisely when that is what the interviewer clearly prefers. “People enjoy talking about themselves so they will reflect that you had a great interview if they did a lot of the talking,” reports UC-San Diego.

5. Make A Good Last Impression: You should express enthusiasm for the job when the interview ends and tell interviewers you want to talk to them again, but that is not your last impression. In fact, sending follow-up e-mails and letters can be more important. Arizona State University recommends sending thank you notes within two days of the interview.

The don’ts include:

1. Don’t Ignore Phone “Interviews”: A phone call might be a de-facto job interview, according to Cornell (N.Y.) University’s “Top 10 Interviewing Tips” article. Cornell recommends being as professional on the phone as you are in person. That means speaking professionally rather than speaking casually and not eating or drinking during the phone call.

2. Don’t Criticize Past Employers: Interviewers are reluctant to hire negative people who might harm their employees’ morale or criticize the company. They also might conclude that your past employer’s behavior was appropriate, or they might not care who was wrong.

3. Don’t Be Unprepared: You should plan your route to the interview and what clothes to wear at least one day in advance. Texas A&M University’s Student Employment Office recommends arriving 10 to 15 minutes early. Showing up without contact information for your references, copies of your resume, business cards and possibly work samples is also being unprepared.

4. Don’t Be Unprofessional Online: While you’re researching the company, the company might be researching you. Consequently, you should be very careful about what you post on social media websites, particularly professionally-oriented websites like LinkedIn. Revealing too much of yourself can be a turnoff to companies that are concerned about discretion.

5. Don’t Focus On Money: Asking about salary too soon can convince an interviewer that you’re more concerned about money than doing a good job. In fact, Arizona State recommends “always” waiting for the interviewer to bring up the subject and UC-San Diego reports that mentioning a specific salary can eliminate you from consideration.