Never underestimate the importance of your companions

No, I don’t mean that four-legged, leash-pulling, running partner of yours… Or, your fellow job seekers at the local coffee house.

The often neglected companions I’m referring to are your cover letters, post interview thank-you notes and networking introduction messages. These are the most important career marketing companions your resume has. Without them, you miss an opportunity to bolster your professional image and further differentiate yourself from the competition.

When it comes to cover letters, I often hear people say they have simply chosen to skip writing one and only submit their resume by itself. Well, I’ve written plenty on this topic in the past, so I won’t go into all of the reasons that I think that is not the best course of action. Instead, I will share a couple of examples of how a cover letter made the difference for others.

Julie was called by a hiring manager who was so impressed by her customized letter that she “had to meet her.” What Julie did to produce that strong reaction was to tailor her letter so that the hiring manager recognized an exact match for her position. Not only that, but Julie’s letter was creative, interesting and clearly showed that she researched the company’s culture and linked several of her previous accomplishments to their mission and values. Not only did Julie get interviewed, but she got an offer.

Kate applied online for a position through an employer’s applicant tracking system (ATS). While she remembers uploading her MS Word resume in the appropriate step, the cover letter portion only allowed a cut and paste process. Apparently, a technical glitch prevented the resume from being received by the employer. But, what was receieved (by Kate) was a personal call from the recruiter handling that search.

Kate’s cover letter effectively communicated her qualifications for the position of interest, so the recruiter took the time to place a call to request her resume. She even provided her email address so Kate could send it directly to her attention. That call and evaluation of Kate’s resume later resulted in a phone interview. Without the cover letter, Kate’s application likely would have been skipped over entirely due to being “incomplete.”

Hailey was one of those “do without a cover letter” job seekers, until one day when she noticed quite a few employers were requiring them. Suddenly, she decided that her chances of attracting attention would be improved if she followed the application instructions by submitting a comprehensive cover letter. The letter she started with could have been used by any other job seeker. There was nothing unique or original about its content.

After we finished building a compelling, focused summary of her experience, there was no mistaking just how qualified Hailey was for her target opportunities. She immediately noticed a better response rate.

So, maybe now you are convinced that a resume can be enhanced with a well-written companion communication piece in the form of a cover letter. Once both of those documents serve their main purpose – to get you invited to interview, it is time to send a thank-you note. I won’t bother discussing the timing or the method (snail mail or email) of sending a thank-you note, but the sooner the better.

In fact, you might want to start writing a thank-you note as soon as you have an interviewe scheduled. You can add the custom touches after your meeting. That is when you take the time to recap the critical skills you bring and reemphasize any pertinent discussion points. Don’t delay building the foundation of your thank-you note until after you’ve interviewed. Here’s why…

A couple of weeks ago someone referred a job seeker, Maria to me for help. Unfortunately, her timing was not ideal. By the time Maria and I spoke, it was already a full day and a half after her interview. She called me in a panic about how to write a thank-you note for a job she really wanted.

The problem was not just that I had no prior background about her or her situation, but I also had a full project load of other commitments. I wasn’t able to offer much assistance beyond some basic recommendations. The next day – now two full days post interview – I received a frantic call from Maria that she was having severe writer’s block.

Again, due to other obligations I was only able to provide minimal advice and support, including correcting major typos, fragmented wording and unfocused thought patterns. Needless to say, I had some major concerns about Maria’s lack of preparation and even worse the probability that her hastily written and tardy letter was not going to reflect well on her communication and follow-up abilities.

As we all know, referrals are the preferred way to get introduced to potential employment opportunities. Martin a job seeker who was already getting plenty of attention from his professional quality resume and powerful cover letter, began been seeking introduction requests from networking contacts to reach niche recruiters and search firms.

In this case, Martin and I discussed using a different, consolidated version of his “employer audience” cover letter. Knowing that third party recruiters are usually most concerned with resume content, a brief introductory note contained in the body of an email was the best way to go for this particular correspondence.

I ended up crafting a customizable template that Martin could use to send to multiple referral resources as needed. It worked well to simplify some of the best features of his original cover letter, but in a more condensed presentation of that information.

Another application for a networking message is to help your professional contacts properly introduce you to someone in their network. When a job seeker is able to provide key information about their background in advance, the networking contact or professional reference has an easier time understanding what to share with the new connection. Likewise, even without a “middle-person” the job seeker him/herself can simply send a professional introduction to a key influencer.

The point of this article was to highlight the importance of preparation, planning and professionalism throughout the entire job search process. As the job seekers in the above examples illustrated, you only have one chance to make a great first impression. If done well there will be several opportunities along the way to make new impressions and you want them all to be positive and memorable.

Article by Kelly Blokdijk of TalentTalks –
TalentTalks partners with job seekers to build competitive career marketing strategies and compelling professional branding materials to create a lasting positive impression. TalentTalks consults with the business community on innovative and customized human resource and organization development initiatives to enhance talent management, talent acquisition, corporate communications and employee engagement programs. TalentTalks routinely posts job market and job search related content on Facebook and Twitter – fans and followers welcome!


1 Comment »

  1. Kermit said

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