Cover Letter Not a Dinosaur, Yet

SC&C cover letters aren't a dinosaurIn the old days you could write a generic résumé that covered all the major points, run down to the local Kinkos for 50 copies, and then just stick in a personalized cover letter for every company you apply to before mailing it. Not only has that job-hunting technique completely vanished, but the cover letter itself is headed in the same direction as the passenger pigeon, the dinosaurs, and the dodo bird.

ATS Being Used by Nearly All Companies

Cover letters are out and ATS is in. ATS is Applicant Tracking Software, which is used by all the large- and medium-sized businesses. A surprising (and increasing) number of small companies are now leasing the use of large companies’ ATS so the larger company can offset its costs while the smaller company gets access to a very expensive software. Everybody wins—except you.

Now I know you’re an intelligent person and that you use a tailored résumé. In a world where 75% of cover letters are not read, because of ATS software, you’re asking yourself if it is still necessary. Yes, it is.

3 Reasons for a Cover Letter

Ideally the cover letter accomplishes three things:

  1. It allows you to introduce yourself,
  2. Indicate that you have an interest in the job, and
  3. Impress the reader sufficiently that you get invited for an interview.

While it’s true that humans seldom look at cover letters anymore (in the first stage), they do tend to come to light once the ATS is through with the résumés. The ATS may have come up with 100 or more candidates. Generally the results come up weighted in batches that have 100%, 95%, and 90% of the keywords. That is when a human being comes into the mix and looks for ways to differentiate them. And that is why you are going to write a nice cover letter.

Dear Mr. Luthor:

I was delighted to find your job posting for LexCorp on MONSTER.COM because I have been an admirer of your companys mission for a long time. I, too, am strongly opposed to an alien like Superman running around and imposing his morality on our planet.

     Simply eliminating him, however, could be a public relations nightmare. My decades of PR experience could serve you very well in this capacity.

As you well know, it was my actions that turned the publicity table on the Arrow in Starling City, allowing us to finally drive him out of the vigilante business. I admit he wasnt superpoweredlike your Superman, but as you are certainly aware, human initiative and intelligence should be able to thwart any single being.

     Of course, LexCorp is facing challenges due to some backwards progress against this alien threat, but I am confident that I can swing public opinion back to our side. Once people are aware that Superman is attempting to form an alliance of Vigilantes, such as the criminal Batman of Gotham City, and the Flash from Central City, it should become apparent that they are not interested in humanity, but rather in consolidating their own power so they can take over our world.

     I would be honored if you would consider me for inclusion in your wonderful organization. Your goal to protect our world from the usurpers is the most selfless, respectable thing I have ever encountered.

Sincerely,

     Mr. Mxyzptlk

SC&C stand out from other applicants with a cover letterCover Letter Helps You Stand Out

Ultimately it’s wrong to believe that cover letters are passé. If only a few are actually read, that is still a significant advantage over someone who does not use a cover letter at all.

If you take the time to craft a letter that addresses the needs of the company, matching it up with your skills in a clear way that doesn’t leave them guessing, it will make a difference. Couldn’t you use 25% more invitations to interview?

Yes, you could!

If you don’t have a cover letter, create one. If you do have a cover letter, look it over and see if it could use a little punching-up. Don’t send your résumé in naked—give it a cover.

Watch for the POWERFUL new book, Leveraging LinkedIn For Job Search Success 2015. This book contains all the secrets you need to be found by companies and recruiters on LinkedIn and have them quickly “get” your value to their company or client. Release date:  July 15, 2015. Available on Amazon, Kindle, and many other outlets.

Why You Were Let Go

SC&C Talking about being firedThis is never going to be a good or happy conversation. You may have left your previous employer on bad terms—stormed out in a blaze of glory or been escorted out of the building. Whether or not it was your fault, your prospective new employer is going to want an explanation. And guess what—you can’t lie.

You shouldn’t skirt around the issue either because when they check with a previous employer, they may end up with a very negative, one-sided, unfair depiction of the events or a very icy response, “Yes, he did work here and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

Be honest about your exit, but with finesse, if necessary.

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog advises, “Ideally, you’d respond with the truth: You were looking for more responsibility, or wanted a job closer to home, or you were laid off, or whatever the real reason happens to be. But what if the real reason is that your boss was a raving lunatic or that you hated all your coworkers? If that’s the case, you need to finesse your answer.”

Have Your Answer Prepared

The first thing to do is not to get caught without an answer. Failure to disclose can put you out of contention for a position. It isn’t as if they are not going to ask you about it but don’t be overzealous in providing information. Think about your former job in terms of your responsibilities. Were you recognized for any exceptional work? Did you receive any awards from the community or your coworkers for your efforts that would show you in a positive light, from an independent source? Did you receive any promotions?

You’re going to want to have all this information readily available to address any questions this potential new employer might have.

Stay Positive in Your Answers

Next you have to explain your side of the issue without being negative about your previous employer—difficult but not impossible. Your new employer will consider how you speak about your previous employer as the same way you will speak about them when you part company.  Be very factual and admit if you were fired. Qualify this with how you’ve learned from the experience; explain the steps you’ve taken to improve yourself so that this sort of complaint will not arise again.

It is important to be factual, but remember to steer the conversation back to a more positive area. “I was not a great fit for that position when my duties changed. You see my strengths are much more in the area of…”

Go one step further. Rack your brains if you have to, but find something positive to say about your last employer. No matter how miserable or horrid your situation was, be the bigger person and find something honestly good to say about your previous employer—Your coworkers were great; the employee bathroom looked like it had been taken out of a palace; the flexible hours allowed you time to work at the local community center for seniors. Anything you can imagine.

Ashley Putnam, Fellowship Director for The Work First Foundation, warns, “If you left a job because of a personal disagreement or issue, don’t bring it up in your interview. Work is work, and no matter how much we identify what we do with who we are, I want to know if you can maintain your professionalism in my company.”

SC&C Smile when talking about previous employerStaying positive means you are forward thinking and progressive. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious. You can tell them that you were promised an exciting career with lots of potential for advancement, but ended up stuck at a desk doing the same thing, day in and day out, with no challenges and it began to wear on you mentally. You were forced to look for something new because the other job was clearly a dead end.

You could say there was plenty of opportunity to innovate, but the company seemed satisfied with the status quo. They were completely uninterested in any ideas you had for making the product better. You knew it was time to move on.

What if they let you go because they hired international staff to do your job for less? You can say that your job was outsourced overseas because they elected to go with a cheaper product rather than proven quality work from people in the community.

More importantly, with each critique of your previous employer’s choices it is important to point out how this new job will allow you to use your creative ability; how it provides an opportunity for you to contribute and make use of your skills. Convince them that you think you have finally found the place where you can make a difference.

Getting fired is not the end of the world. It can be very depressing, and disheartening, but you have to personally turn it around and make something good out of it. Sometimes a traumatic event like this is actually a positive thing; it’s like a kick in the seat of the pants to get you moving again when your career has stalled and you have failed to recognize it.

Shake it off; paste a smile on your face; and get back out there. There’s a job out there for you and it’ll be better than the last one. You just have to find it.

Watch for the POWERFUL new book, Leveraging LinkedIn For Job Search Success 2015. This book contains all the secrets you need to be found by companies and recruiters on LinkedIn and have them quickly “get” your value to their company or client. Release date:  July 15, 2015. Available on Amazon, Kindle, and many other outlets.

Salary Negotiation Strategies

SC&C Salary Negotiation TacticsWant to become an expert negotiator when it comes to salary talks? Then check out this recent U.S. News & World Report article, The 4 Most Powerful Salary Negotiation Tactics, written by Robin Madell. Fred Coon, CEO of Stewart, Cooper & Coon, was quoted in the article for one of the top strategies to negotiating a better salary package.

The top 4 tactics include:

  1. Ground your request in facts.
  2. Present your value.
  3. Put someone else in your shoes.
  4. Ask – and then stop talking.

Don’t be timid when it comes to negotiating your salary and benefits package. But be sure you have a strategy for the talks and sound reasoning on why you deserve what you want. One major point to take away from the article is that people, male or female, who negotiate their salaries, oftentimes get more in salary or benefits.