How to write a great cover letter

 

The cover letter is your sales pitch. It’s your chance to tell the employer why they should give you the job. The CV is pointless without it so if you’ve been writing “Please find enclosed my CV” and ending your email or letter there then stop now. The cover letter gives you the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd in a way that your CV cannot. It’s quite simply crucial. But how do you write a great one?

The chances are the hiring manager has received a lot of applications and the fact of the matter is that they can’t read every one. A great cover letter means you have to make what you say count. The employer is going to quickly sift through them so you’ve got about 20 seconds to make an impact. That’s 20 seconds to make whoever’s reading want to continue reading. So let’s start from the beginning.

Before you even start writing you want to do some research. Research the company, their history, their culture etc. You need to know exactly what the company does and what its mission is. Hinting at this knowledge in the cover letter is the perfect way to let the employer know you’re interested in the company and can take the initiative. Then you need to research the role you are applying for. What profile are they looking for? You can then use this information and the right terminology to describe yourself. Doing some research and making a plan before you begin will make it much easier to write effectively.

Now to the most important aspect of the cover letter, the beginning. As I said you’ve got about 20 seconds to make an impact, so that makes the start of the letter the key. The opening paragraph should be short and hard-hitting. Explain why you are writing and where you heard about the offer. If you heard about it through a contact at the company then mention that person’s name as a personal referral can prove very beneficial.

The second paragraph is where you answer why exactly they should hire you. Discuss your professional and academic experience, but only mention the things that are totally relevant to the job that you are applying for. This should not be a list as you want the letter to flow and show your writing skills. Now go back to the job description wherever you have seen it advertised. Try to include how you have shown each desired characteristic in your past experience and do the same with the job responsibilities.

Now for a move into the future. What can you do for the company? Outline your career goals, again keeping relevant to the job you’re applying for. This is another opportunity to expand on your CV and include your research. For example you can mention the company’s goals for the next year and how you can help them achieve that.

The last paragraph should be some form of initiation of contact. Mention that you would like an interview, at their convenience of course. Do not bring in things such as money as it is often interpreted negatively. However, some offers will ask you to include salary expectations and in that case you should include a broad range. Just as the beginning of your cover letter is key, how you close it is essential too. Finish with a “Yours Sincerely” and signing your name.

Finally, here are some key things to remember when writing your cover letter:

  • Try not to sound arrogant or boastful as this is a particularly undesirable trait.
  • Do not use the common phrases that everyone uses. For example, saying you are dynamic tells the company absolutely nothing about you.
  • However, do use buzzwords. As I have said you should use the job description when writing your cover letter. Include buzzwords that will catch the eye of an employer.
  • Try not to exceed 4 paragraphs or make it too long. No one wants to read an essay.

Remember all this and you stand a chance of standing out from the crowd and getting that job.

Good Luck!

How to be effective in your job search

The job search is one of the most difficult challenges facing the population today. The job market is tough and the economic outlook is bleak. In all honesty it isn’t the best time to be a job seeker. But enough with the negativity. There are still jobs there, people are still hiring and there are plenty of opportunities to be capitalized on. The key to the job search is knowing how to do so effectively. So here are my top 5 tips to being efficient, effective and getting results from your job search:

#1: Networking

Networking is commonly recognized as the no.1 strategy to finding a job. It’s about building solid long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. Your network is ultimately limitless and as such can include anyone you meet. It’s all about sharing – if you’re helpful to your connections there is a much higher chance of them helping you in the future so you want to develop strong relationships with people. The larger your network, the greater possibilities you have of hearing about new opportunities, new information and new ideas.

Of course the traditional methods of networking still apply, for example going to job fairs, career events, conventions etc but one of the easiest (and most effective) ways of networking nowadays, is social networking. The last few years have bore witness to a revolution in networking, a move from the real world to the digital one. In 2011, 16% of job seekers in the US highlight social media as the main reason for finding a job. 18.4 million people give credit to Facebook, whilst 10.2 million say LinkedIn got them their current job. And these numbers are only going to increase, especially given the revolution in mobile technology which gives you the ability to be connected to anyone, anywhere, anytime. So get networking and get social! (Read more on using social media in your job search)

#2: Recruitment Agencies

Of course I am writing this as an employee of a recruitment agency and therefore may be a little bit biased but that doesn’t change the fact that recruitment agencies help maximize your chances of finding a job and be as effective as possible in your job search. Recruitment agencies work closely with people looking for jobs and employers looking for people to fill jobs. Like us, many recruitment agencies are specialized, and therefore experts in the area of work you are looking for, and do not charge you for their services. What’s also important to remember is that you can use lots of different recruitment agencies to increase your chances. Something which has increased in importance for employers is job references from previous employment so make sure to have some! I can guarantee you that if you’re a good candidate with a suitable profile then a recruitment agency will help you find the job you want.

#3: Keep an open mind

Staying with recruitment agencies for the moment, it is quite often the case (especially given the current job market) that you will be offered temporary positions. Don’t just write these off straight away. Part-time positions are great for helping you gain experience, skills and confidence as well as introducing you to a wider network of people.

In addition to being open minded about potential job offers you have to keep an open mind when it comes to learning new skills as well. For example, by learning a new language you can vastly expand the area for opportunity in your career. In addition to this, there are numerous training courses which can give you qualifications to put on your CV that can make you look much more favourable to employers. Finally, being willing to travel and being mobile are often essential in today’s market. So don’t just turn an opportunity down straight away, really think about it.

#4: Stay on top of the news

In today’s technological world, keeping up with the latest trends is key. As I have said, learning new skills is very important when looking for a job and technical literacy is one of the most important skills to have. You need to keep up to date with new developments in your field of work. By doing so, you can not only impress employers on your CV and in the Interview but also increase your career possibilities. If you don’t keep up you will get left behind.

#5: Never give up

Last, but by no means least, is the importance of perseverance. I’ve written recently about the importance of self-belief and keeping motivated for job seekers and I really can’t stress this enough. Looking for a job is no easy feat and sometimes it will get you down. What’s important to remember is not to take rejection personally, to find the positives in a situation, to learn from your mistakes and ultimately to believe in yourself. If you keep going the right job will come along eventually

So that’s a few tips on how to carry out a job search effectively. Of course there are no guarantees in the job seeking world and there is an element of luck involved to help you along the way but remember this advice and you stand a better chance than your competitors.

Good luck!

How to close an interview

 

Now we all know that a first impression is one of the most important things to perfect when trying to improve your interviewing ability. Whenever anybody meets you, whether it be in a professional or a personal context, they are likely going to make a split second judgement of you which can prove essential. After all, it’s very difficult to overcome a bad first impression. But something which has not been focused on as much, which is equally as important, is the impression you leave at the end. Closing the interview can make all the difference when it comes to getting the job, so knowing how to do so effectively is key.

Now, of course every interview has its differences but most of the time the closing stages begin in the same way. So let’s run through the process of events:

You’ve made a positive first impression, you’ve developed a rapport with whoever’s interviewing you, you’re answering questions, conversation is flowing and everything is going well. The interview draws to a close and you are asked one more thing: “Do you have any questions for me?” This is when you know the interviewer is wrapping things up, but that is not to be confused with the interviewer ending the interview there and then. What the interviewer really means is: “prove to me that you are definitely the right candidate for the job.” Often, when candidates are faced with such a question they say “no,” but the best candidates (the ones who are more likely to get the job) do not just end the interview there. The interviewer wants you to convince them that hiring you is the right choice. Even though they’ve been asking questions throughout the interview, they want it to be reiterated that you’re the perfect guy or girl for the job.

So how do you do that?

Well, you want to leave a positive lasting impression on the interviewer. So don’t just say “no” and end the interview there. Even though the questions you ask often depend on how the interview has gone and what you have talked about there are certain responses that you can prepare which are guaranteed to ensure the interviewer remembers you positively. You want to leave your interviewer with the right picture of you and make sure your interest in the position is known. Here are some questions which can help you leave the right impression:

What goals/aims does the company have for the coming year?

This is the perfect way to show your interest in, not only the position, but the company as well. It also gives the impression that you are ambitious and desire success for the business. It highlights you as a team player, someone who wants to parallel their personal goals with those of the company. It’s also a chance to show you’ve done some research, as you can follow up by talking about the previous year and potential areas for improvement within the organization.

What type of opportunities for training and advancement will there be?

This is the best way of showing you’re ambition without sounding overly forward or aggressive. For example you do not want to ask about salary or benefits straight away as this can put an interviewer off you and give the impression your sole focus is money. This question can also show your interviewer that you would be committed to the company. Finally, it’s a great opportunity to outline your goals and desired career path.

How would you describe the business culture at the company?

This is a question which is perhaps more beneficial to you than your interviewer. It is one of the best ways to simultaneously show interest in the company to impress the interviewer whilst determining whether this is definitely somewhere you want to work. After all, you want to work somewhere which will be enjoyable and suitable to your personality etc.

When will you be in contact?

This is where you can conclude the interview on a high note by underlining your interest in the position and overall desire to get the job. Tell the interviewer you want the job. After all, employers tend to be more attracted to candidates who are attracted to them. This question also prevents you from the nerves involved with no knowing what’s going to happen or when.

And that’s pretty much it. Don’t forget to thank the interviewer for their time and leave in a positive manner. Remember all that and the end of your interview might just mean the start of a new job.

Self-belief: The Key to Success

“If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
Sam Walton

Self-confidence is one of the most important qualities to have in every aspect of our lives. Whether it be in a personal context or a professional one, belief in oneself is often the difference between success and failure. Yet so many people struggle to find that confidence, and if that applies to you then don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Today I’m going to focus on self-belief in a professional context. Now there’s various areas where believing in yourself can play a part during your career. To start, let’s take the case of an increasingly large group: the recently unemployed.

Often, when someone loses their job, their confidence goes with it. Of course you’re going to be disappointed, but the problem lies in the belief that losing your job is a direct indication of your value (or lack of value) as a professional. Getting fired or being let go then cancels out every success you have ever achieved. Now that’s ridiculous. Just because you’ve lost your job it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the line. And even though deep down the job seeker knows that, the loss of confidence provides an obstacle large enough to block them from seeing it and believing it.

After all, a lack of confidence can be the largest obstacle for job seekers. If you lack the confidence to believe in yourself then the likelihood is, it shows. Candidates like this tend to “forget” their past accomplishments and concentrate much more attention than others on their limitations. And often this occurs sub-consciously so they don’t even know they’re doing it. But as you can imagine, a candidate who focuses on negatives rather than positives is unlikely to succeed. If you can’t get excited about your former achievements or show interest in your work experience then how do you expect the employer to? You have to resolve these self-doubts before the interview.

But how do you do that?

Well, the chances are you have had some success in your life. You’ve achieved things and you’ve felt confident. The key is remembering this. I know this sounds simple but in all honesty it is. Review your past and focus on the times you’ve been successful. You can even practice talking about it. Even though it may sound simple, a lot of people have difficulty talking about their accomplishments, so try to get used to it! Try talking to former co-workers who can relate and acknowledge your qualities. One of the worst things you can do if you lose your job is to feel embarrassed and withdraw from professional relationships. So don’t do that! Everyone understands the importance of networking and you never know, one of your former co-workers may just be able to help you out.

So if you are someone who has lost their job then make sure you don’t lose your confidence and self-belief with it.

But how can the typical job seeker avoid losing confidence and ultimately use self-belief to find a job?

I’m going to be honest and say that if you don’t believe in yourself then it’s very likely you will not find a job. In a professional context, if you don’t believe in yourself then no one will. Everyone’s agreed that looking for a job is hard, especially in the current job market. It’s a stressful and often long-winded process. The key to success is self-belief.

The chances are that you will not succeed straight away. There will be obstacles and you will experience failure (and that doesn’t just apply to job seeking!). The most important thing to do is to recognize failure as an opportunity to start again and do it better. In the case of a job seeker you have to make sure not to take things personally and not to give up and stop trying. After all, if you don’t try you cannot succeed.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall”.
Confucius

Here are 3 steps to help you on the road to building self-confidence:

#1: Preparation

Think about what you’ve achieved in the past, what strengths you currently possess and where you want to go in the future.

#2: Set off

Build up your knowledge, set yourself some goals and manage yourself, accepting failures along the way.

#3: Stride to success

Your self confidence has grown so now it’s time to stretch yourself more – set bigger goals and extend your skills. Be careful not to become over-confident as this is just as undesirable in an employee as a lack of confidence.

Even though I have included a 3 step process, in reality there is no quick fix solution. What’s important is that you know self-belief is achievable, and with it everything else becomes more achievable too. I’ll leave you with a last quote which you can say to yourself before you face a job interview or any other challenge in your personal or professional life:

“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself.”
Muhammad Ali 

The Dangerous World of LinkedIn

 

LinkedIn’s a great social network. Currently home to 145+ million users, it has a growth rate that is quite simply astonishing. It’s great for job seekers, it’s great for recruiters and it unquestionably rules the world of B2B. So basically it’s great, right?

Well, yes but as with everything in life it’s got its drawbacks. I’ve spoken previously about how LinkedIn can be an incredibly beneficial tool for job seekers (and of course other professionals) but today I want to discuss its dangers. What are the risks involved when using a LinkedIn account and what should you be avoiding?

I’m going to start with one of the hottest topics at the moment when it comes to social networking. This is something which has sparked global debate, and outrage in certain cases, and is probably the no.1 danger of LinkedIn. This is of course privacy. Now I’ve talked about privacy a little bit previous to this but in that case I chose to concentrate on the social media giant, Facebook (so if you’re worried about your privacy on Facebook then feel free to take a little look at that). But, as the title quite bluntly underlines, today is all about LinkedIn.

The problem with a social network is exactly that; it’s social. And the problem with that is the extreme difficultly to be simultaneously social whilst maintaining details about yourself to yourself. But the privacy issue with LinkedIn is not the same as it is with Facebook, or other social networks for that matter. In fact LinkedIn is one of the better social networking sites when it comes to account and profile privacy. The problem here lies in the user’s desire to share things about themselves without thinking carefully about who is going to see them. I’ll give you an example. I read an article on Forbes the other day which described the case of John Flexman, an employee of the gas exploration firm BG Group. I’m not going to go into too much detail about this specific case but basically Flexman had ticked the box highlighting his interest in “career opportunities” which resulted in him being fired. As crazy as that may seem, this is not an isolated incident. The details which you post on LinkedIn are going to be looked at, so make sure not to include information which could easily be misinterpreted!

But it’s not just selecting the options that LinkedIn gives you that causes problems. Many of you job seeking LinkedIn users will have included a summary on your profile. A little blurb about yourself which you think sums you up. Unfortunately, the way you describe yourself may not look as good through someone else’s eyes as it sounds in your head. I’ve read countless summaries which include paragraphs of irrelevant waffle that will immediately turn a potential employer into someone who’s never going to look at your profile again. Remember there’s difference between LinkedIn and a network like Facebook. Yes, LinkedIn is a social network but it’s also the professional one. I’m not saying you should make your profile over professional and incredibly boring but if you’re a job seeker my advice to you is simple: Use the summary as your job pitch. Tell them, whoever they might be, why you should get the job. Keep your stories about your crazy hobbies etc for your personal friends.

Another thing which is partially relevant to the privacy issue is the profile picture. Whoever visits your profile, or comes across you in a search, the first thing they will look at is your profile picture. So you would think the users of the professional network would take this into consideration and upload a suitable picture. Yet, the number of times I have come across a picture of someone drinking a beer or lying on a beach is quite simply astonishing. It’s fair enough that you want your LinkedIn profile to have personality, but a silly profile picture is not the way to go.

So there are just a few things which can cause problems on LinkedIn. Whether you’re a job seeker or currently employed the overall message is the same: Don’t rush the creation of your LinkedIn profile, don’t throw LinkedIn into the same pile as Facebook and ultimately make sure every bit of information, text or anything else that is visible is something you want people to see. And most importantly, if you avoid the problems, LinkedIn really is a great tool.

What 2012 has in store for recruitment

Recruitment is experiencing a revolution.

2011 bore witness to the transformation of the traditional recruitment field to a sector where social is king. I’ve written a bit about social recruiting in previous posts and 2011 really saw this going mainstream. It saw recruiters moving away from their traditional methods, such as job boards, and exploring the extreme potential of the social route. When looking to hire a recruiter, social competence has climbed towards the top of the list of desireable qualities. Many job seekers have adapted to the change, as LinkedIn’s 145+ million members suggests, but the social trend is speeding up and promises to explode in the New Year.

So, what does 2012 have in store for recruitment? And more importantly what does that mean for the job seeker?

Let’s get the ball rolling with LinkedIn. I’ve mentioned its 145+ million user base and the fact that it has been one of the key players in the social recruiting world, but what’s more important to focus on is its growth rate and therefore its future potential. On March 22nd 2011 LinkedIn announced a major milestone in its history, it hit 100 million users. We’re now in January 2012, which puts its growth rate at around 50%. Working purely from that logic it is perfectly possible (and some would consider very likely) that LinkedIn will hit 300 million users by the end of 2012. It’s adding about 2 new members every second, a rate which continues to increase. So if you’re not on LinkedIn now and you’re looking for a job, the chances are you will be by the end of the year!

But it’s not just the large user base of potential connections that should attract you to LinkedIn. Recruiters actively use LinkedIn more and more to source candidates. In other words they are looking for you; all you need to do is help them find you! At present, and throughout 2011, a lot of LinkedIn’s financial gains were made because of recruiters. This is no surprise given that most of LinkedIn’s offers and packages are aimed at hiring managers. This will continue to be the case as the year runs its course but what is being predicted now is the likelihood of HR specific software being introduced (and making a big impact). There are several new products in the making which are to be released this year so watch out for them!

Now to the current king of the social web, Facebook. Facebook is the largest social network in existence. It has over 850 million users and undoubtedly owns the social media crown. Since its launch, its growth rate has been astonishing. That is until now. Facebook has become accustomed to a 10% growth rate in internet user reach per quarter over the last few years, but in the last few months of 2011 it was barely growing at a rate of 1%. Google+ was launched and, after its sudden rise and equally sudden fall in growth rate, is now being predicted to grow to around 400 million users by the end of the year. People are spending less time on Facebook and ultimately its popularity seems to be decreasing. Some have even suggested that 2012 could be the year where Facebook falls. Now I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon. Yes Google+ is likely to be successful but it turns out that the internet probably is big enough for the both of them. Their aims and purposes are different and I’m pretty sure the Facebook team isn’t thinking about the good run they’ve had and that it’s time to lie down and let Google take over. 2012 will still involve businesses flocking to Facebook to reach their customers just as recruiters will flock to it to find the best candidates and run several other of their operations. The rumour of Facebook jobs is not an unrealistic one and it’s not unlikely that 2012 could be the year that Facebook changes things up and diversifies its services in a way that will impact recruitment in a massive way. What’s important to remember right now though is that it’s all speculation. Neither of the internet giants have laid out their specific intentions for the year in relation to recruitment so I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ are growing in importance for the recruitment industry but what about Twitter? Twitter has grown impressively since its launch, now boasting over 300 million users. It’s the quickest way that information can find us but is it important in a recruitment context? Well, 2011 finally bore witness to recruiters “getting it”. However, most recruiters I’m aware of are still only using it as a one-way communication channel, a way to broadcast information. What’s likely to change in 2012 is the way recruiters use Twitter. Recruitment, just like social media, is about relationships. So 2012 should be the year when recruiters stop broadcasting and start conversing. If you’re not on Twitter I would advise you to start using it. Start following relevant people and start networking because ultimately you can improve your chances of getting a job!

The final major transformation which I can almost guarantee 2012 has in store for us is the mobile revolution. With the technology available today, social and mobile are extremely closely linked. It’s fair to say that the world’s gone mobile. For me, it’s only a matter of time before recruiters react. If you’re an analytics user (which you most likely are if you run a website) then you will probably have noticed a distinct increase in the amount of mobile traffic your website is receiving. I can almost guarantee that 2012 is the year of the mobile explosion in the recruitment field. It seems every other person owns an iPhone, tablet or one of the many other mobile devices and many use that device as their main internet access point. Everyone wants to reach everyone, anywhere and anytime, a prospect which is now a reality. Recruiters are starting to make their sites mobile optimized and the select few have started to create and run their own apps so watch out for that. 2012 could just be the year when you find yourself a job on your phone.

So there are a few things that are (likely) going to happen this year. 2012 is the year where technical competence and an understanding of the digital world are essential capabilities to the job seeker. So keep up to date with what’s going on, get social and go mobile!