Cover Letter or Cover Email


Anita,

Can you settle a question for me? If applying for a job via email, is the email itself the cover letter or do I have to think up something else to say in a separate cover letter that I attach?

Email_Resume_300Dear, Covering Your Bases,

If you are applying for an open position you found through Craigslist, a company website or some other avenue that requests that you apply to an email address, your email IS your cover letter. There is no need to reinvent the wheel and create a separate cover letter attachment (just remember to attach your résumé!).

If you are applying through a job board such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com or Indeed.com, you may have the option to apply with your résumé only without a cover letter. DO NOT SKIP THE COVER LETTER! (Can you hear me shouting?) You may not feel you are good with words, but if you don’t include a cover letter, you’ll appear apathetic to the hiring professional.

Man Applying for a Job on the InternetNo matter whether you email or attach the cover letter, spend a bit of time tailoring it for the specific job. A generic “In response to your ad for yada yada yada” is more likely to produce a yawn than an interview. Customize each cover letter/email using the following advice:

  • Inject some personality and enthusiasm.
  • Address a person by name, if possible, rather than “Dear Hiring Manager” or the outdated “To Whom It May Concern.” It’s often a snap (or a couple of clicks) to find the name of the person hiring by searching LinkedIn or the company’s website.
  • Mention the specific employment opportunity for which you are applying. Companies may be hiring for several open positions.
  • Keep it short. Don’t include your life story, and don’t rehash irrelevant experience.
  • Outline how you match the qualifications using keywords from the job listing. Bullet points make it easy for busy hiring managers to skim.
  • Highlight the ways you can help the company. Review the Pain Points Letter.
  • Close with a proactive request for an interview.

The cover letter is to the résumé what the back cover synopsis is to the book – an enticement to delve in and read more.

Readers: What’s your best opening line for your cover letter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
Covering the Cover Letter
The Dreaded Salary Requirement Conundrum
Mr., Mrs., Ms.? How about Mx.?

Yikes! A Panel Interview

Anita,

I recently had an interview with the mid-level manager to whom I would report if hired. I was called back to set up a panel interview with his boss and two other managers including HR. I’m freaking out! Why do companies do this? I’m so nervous, how will I ever get through this inquisition without throwing up?

Dear, In a Tizzy Lizzy,

Business People at a MeetingCompanies may conduct panel interviews for various reasons. Consolidating multiple interviews is an efficient use of the numerous managers’ time. For that matter, the applicant’s time is respected as well; no need to take additional PTO for interviews #3 and #4 (and answer the same questions over and over). Hiring by consensus can overcome individual biases, and since applicants have more people to impress, panel interviews may raise the bar for talent selection. If department peers are involved in a team interview, a preview of the group work dynamic can be glimpsed.

Here are some tips to prepare for – and conquer – the panel interview.

  • Find out who will be on the interview committee. Then do some investigating. Check out their positions and profiles on the company website and LinkedIn. Google search for any news articles in which they may have been mentioned.
  • Rack your brains for questions each individual is likely to ask. You’ve already prepared for the standard interview fare, but put yourself in each interviewer’s shoes and imagine what they would like to know about you. While the HR Manager may be interested in that tiny gap in your employment many moons ago, the Sales Manager may be more interested in your stats and the accompanying conquering hero anecdotes.
  • At the introduction and handshake stage, ask for each person’s business card or jot down their names in the order they are seated. Those lightweight butterflies in the stomach can really kayo short-term memory recall.
  • Talk to them all. When answering one individual’s question, be sure to look at others on the panel as well. Like a comedy “callback,” make reference to earlier questions asked by other interviewers.
  • Win over the person most aloof. It may be easier to cozy up to the folks you can tell you’ve already impressed, but try to address the quiet note-taker’s concerns, particularly if he or she is high-ranking. Fret not, though, Lizzy. There’s unlikely to be a “good cop, bad cop” scenario in your panel interview as in this entertaining sketch from BBC’s That Mitchell and Webb Look:

  • Use those business cards you collected to address a thank you note to each individual on the panel.

Instead of dreading the panel interview, use it as an opportunity to get a sneak peek inside the corporate culture and view the team’s interpersonal dynamics. An interview is as much about you appraising the company as it is the company assessing you.

Readers: How have you aced a panel interview?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
Why So Many Interviews?
The #1 Interview Question
Anita Clew’s Jitter-Free Guide to Job Interviews
(Tags)

  1. Panel interview
  2. Team interview
  3. Stress
  4. Preparation
  5. Tips

 

(Facebook Lead Ins)

Anita Clew Facebook #1:  Yikes! You’ve got a panel interview for that job you want. Calm your nerves with these tips: Insert URL

Anita Clew Facebook #2:  Tips to prepare for a panel job interview: Insert URL

SF Facebook: Tips to prepare for a panel job interview: Insert URL

LinkedIn (689 character max):

Anita Clew Advice Blog: Yikes! You’ve got a panel interview for that job you want. Learn why companies conduct panel interviews, then calm your nerves with these tips: Insert URL

Why You Didn’t Get the Job

Hi!

I’ve been applying for positions non-stop for 2 months and have had 3 face to face interviews. When I’ve been given a phone interview, I pass with flying colors and onto the next stage. When having the face to face interviews I leave each one feeling confident that I would have an offer. I’ve now received letters stating they found a better fit for the position. I’ve worked in Call Centers for the past 8 years in a customer service role, so experience was not an issue. Could it be my age? I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong, if anything. Is it in bad taste to ask why I was passed over? I’m of the opinion if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I can’t fix it.

Dear, Whys and Wherefores,

Readers often write to ask “Why wasn’t I hired? I though the interview went well.” I’m not related to Big Brother, so I don’t have access to the surveillance footage of your meeting. But I can make offer some theories.

Mentally review your past interviews to see if you made any of these missteps.

  • Divergent appearance. A wardrobe mismatch can be more than just wearing brown socks with black trousers. You may actually be overdressed in a Wall Street suit and tie for an interview with a hip startup, where everyone is dressed more casually. But if you’re a tattooed, pierced individual, you may want to take out your septum ring to avoid distracting a buttoned-up interviewer in a more corporate environment. This Super Bowl “Talking Stain” commercial from a few years ago reminds us all to avoid messy lunch foods right before an interview.

  • Body language. Eye contact without staring, a firm but not bone-crushing handshake, smiling and nodding (but not too enthusiastically!) are all non-verbal communication skills you should brush up on.
  • Poor performance. You stutter, you interject “um” or “like” too often, you can’t even think of the answer to a simple question! Calm your nerves, take a breath before answering your interviewer’s questions, and don’t speak too rapidly (chances are, the hiring manager is taking notes). Public speaking may not be your forte but with proper preparation and practice, you can improve.
  • Lack of follow-up. Without being “dimpatient,” be sure to maintain communication after the interview, starting with a “thank you” note. HINT: If you are kicking yourself after forgetting to mention a pertinent point in your interview, mention it in your thank you message.
    (For more tips on acing interviews, download my free e-book, Anita Clew’s Jitter-Free Guide to Job Interviews.)

You could request honest feedback from your interviewer via email – but never put them on the spot in person or by phone. “While I’m disappointed I was not chosen for the position, it would really help me in my next interview to know if you saw any areas in which I can improve.” Be forewarned, warns EvilHRLady, some recruiters and hiring managers may be hesitant to offer constructive criticism. If you do receive remarks, respond graciously even if you think their observations are way off base.

Readers: Have you ever asked for – and received – a critique from an interviewer?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
How to Get Past the Phone Interview
Top 10 Interview Fails
Dress for Success
Hiding the “Gray” on Your Résumé (and Beyond)
Being Body Language Conscious
Reasons for No Résumé Responses

Lack of Training

Dear Anita,

I’m in HR and just have to vent. I get so many résumés for open positions from people who don’t qualify even remotely. Can you please tell job seekers without the required experience not to waste my time?

Infographic-1-Lack-of-Experience-LGDear, Not Impressed,

A recent American Staffing Association (ASA) survey found that unemployed adults looking for work say that lack of experience is the main obstacle that prevents them from finding a job. (Really, we needed a survey to figure that out?) But the workforce survey goes further: 82% of unemployed job seekers think training would increase their chances of receiving job offers. And nearly nine out of 10 aspirants would be willing to try a new field if training were offered.

So, employers, do you have a training program for those hard-to-fill positions? Or perhaps you have high turnover in a particular role. This may be an indication that the instruction provided for that job title is not up to snuff. It’s not enough for the HR department to fill chairs with warm bodies; you want those bodies to flourish in the role, both for their own personal growth and for the company’s betterment.

If your business has perpetually open positions with no qualified applicants, consider cultivating “home-grown” employees. Convince your local community college to provide classes that your company would find helpful for future applicants.

Now, let me scold job seekers a bit. If you come across as a lackluster candidate to hiring managers, it’s in your power to improve your image. Don’t wait for future employers to train you. Proactively seek out professional development opportunities, whether it’s online or at your local chamber of commerce, free or paid out of your own pocket. You’ll be able to beef up your résumé’s “Advanced Training” or “Continuing Education” section, and show that you have a drive to succeed.

Readers: Let’s dream a little. If you could change careers with full training provided, what field would you enter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified
Onboarding New Employees
Back to Class

Great Questions to Ask During Interviews

Dear Anita,

I’m 72 and the first job I interviewed for was 2 years ago and I was hired on the spot! For those searching for a job, I recommend showing how excited you are at the interview, and that you first learn a few things about the prospective employer. It shows that you aren’t just randomly going from door-to-door!

Be energetic and positive. Ask questions like… “How long have you [the interviewer] worked here?” or “What is the best thing you like about your company?” That way you will learn something and it gives you a chance to compose yourself.

Interview_Question_000019402901Dear Spot On,

Congrats on acing your interview! Thanks for sharing your winning strategy. Many people forget to prepare for that final interviewer’s inquiry, “Do you have any questions for me?” Here is a list of great questions to impress your potential employer.

  • Do you have any reservations about my qualifications? (If yes, this give you a second chance to toot your own horn and change their mind.)
  • Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with? (Gain insight into the coworkers you would deal with on a daily basis.)
  • Who has formerly held the position? (Did they retire? Were they fired? If so, why?)
  • What is a typical [day, week, month, or year] like for a person in this job?
  • What is the biggest problem currently facing your staff? (Try to show how you could help solve this problem.)
  • What constitutes success in this position? (Will you have a fighting chance to flourish?)
  • What are the prospects for growth in this job? (Show you’re in it for the long term.)

And finally, don’t forget to ask the all-important:

  • What is the next step in the hiring process?

For even more queries, check out job-hunt.com’s 45 Questions to Ask in Your Job Interview.

Readers: What is your favorite question to ask during a job interview?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
Interview Rules
Top 10 Interview Fails

Sharing the Pain

Dear Anita,

My job is the biggest royal pain. Can you help me get a better one?

Woman in painDear, Complaint Queen,

According to research conducted by SERMO, yours truly actually has one of the top 10 most painful jobs. Yes, that’s right. Writers and journalists rank up there with construction workers, truck drivers, and those on the production line. (Mechanics, gardeners/landscapers, athletes, firefighters, lawyers, and IT professionals round out the top 10.)

But instead of focusing on our pain on the job, try targeting a hiring manager’s daily discomforts – and how you, above all others, can help relieve his or her troubles. A few years ago, Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, trademarked the idea of a Pain Letter. This is the opposite of the generic cover letter (no more “Dear HR, I saw your ad and am applying for the open position. Blah, blah, blah.”).

The first step in writing a Pain Letter is to research the company. Use LinkedIn to find the hiring manager’s name.

Secondly, congratulate the manager and/or the company for a recent accomplishment (which may also be gleaned from LinkedIn or Google research). Ryan calls this the “Hook.”

Next, determine what keeps this manager up at night, and outline the “Pain Hypothesis.” Ryan gave this example for an imaginary Payroll Specialist in Forbes:

I can imagine that hiring as many people as you are, keeping tabs on payroll issues might be a constant challenge. With regulations constantly changing, it’s not easy to keep everyone paid correctly and well-informed in a growing company.

Then, include your “Dragon-Slaying Story,” describing specifically how you handled similar pain in your current or previous position.

When I ran the payroll system at Angry Chocolates, I kept the payroll accurate and in compliance and answered dozens of employee questions every day while we grew from 15 to 650 staff members.

Keep the letter brief, closing simply:

If payroll accuracy and advice to your team is on your radar screen, I’d love to chat when it’s convenient. All the best, Nancy Drew

Readers: How do you focus on alleviating the hiring manager’s business pains in your cover letter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
Covering the Cover Letter
Bypassing Human Resources
My Job is a Pain in the Neck – Literally

Best of 2015

Dear Readers,

We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience. ― George Washington

Let’s take a look back to see what lessons we have been able to put to use in the past year. Here are the most popular articles of 2015, in order of views:Two business people

#1: Asking for Vacation Time Do you ASK your supervisor or TELL her when you are taking vacation? What’s the best strategy?

#2: Crimes & Misdemeanors It’s no surprise that this post about finding a job with a criminal record made the top of the list, since nearly one-third of Americans have been arrested by age 23.

#Hiding_the_Gray_0000122551363: Hiding the Gray on Your Résumé (and Beyond) Tips for graying triathletes (and the rest of us mere mortals) on how to compete with younger job seekers.

#4: Functional Format for Résumés Not just for the greybeards the functional résumé can work for people with gaps in employment, caregivers returning to the workforce, or recent grads with little experience.

#5: How Long to Find a Job? I am often asked by discouraged job seekers of all ages some variation of the question, “How long does it really take to get a new job?” After reviewing the statistics, see what you can do shorten your search.

On_the_Fence_iStock_000009524325_Small#6: Stay or Quit? Follow this advice if you are asking yourself on the job, “Should I stay or should I go?”

#7: Bypassing Human Resources When to try an end-run around HR, and how to cooperate with the human resources department as a job seeker.

#8: Texting on the Job In this day and age, is texting on the job OK? Check out the data on cell phone distractions in the workplace and see if the facts change your mind.

Woman_Cell_Phone_iStock_000000292386_Small#9: How to Get Past the Phone Interview Learn how to put your best virtual foot forward during the initial telephone screening.

#10: Overcoming Negative References Steps to take when you think a former boss is giving you a bad reference.

Readers: What Anita Clew article was most helpful to you this past year and why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita. Your question might make next year’s Top 10 list!

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

Happy Holidays

Happy_Holidays

Why All the Cut & Paste?

Ms. Anita,

I would like to know why all the applications when you have a résumé?

Dear, Cutting Corners,

Untitled-1Bothersome, isn’t it? Cutting and pasting information from your already attached résumé makes applying for position postings online seem like a full-time job in and of itself. And for the unemployed, it is your primary goal. So, although it may seem a hassle, do what your future employer asks of you, and fill out the online application to their specifications.

Some job application systems are formatted to use the data you enter to match you with open positions, as it is much faster than a human resources professional personally reviewing each and every application for key words and phrases. These HR pros want the information in the format they require rather than having to search for it wherever you happened to include it (if at all) in your résumé. So skip the extra application step at your peril. You may not even be considered for the job, or you’ll look like someone who cannot follow directions or is simply lazy. (Now, now. I don’t want to hear you calling these hiring managers lazy; they often get hundreds of résumés for online job postings. The onus is on you to make selecting your application easier.)

While we’re on the subject of filling in online job applications, please pay attention to capitalization. I hate to see apps with names or other proper nouns typed in all lower case. That’s just as bad – no, worse – than SHOUTING in all caps. After all, you are smarter than a 5th Grader, aren’t you?

Readers: Go ahead; have a little rant below about all the extra work of filling out online job applications. Then… do it anyway.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
ATS 101: Demystifying Applicant Tracking Systems
Listing Pay Rates on Job Applications

Previous Older Entries

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
%d bloggers like this: