Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Advice from Jobfox.com

Jobfox.com is a job searching website that helps you build a job searching profile, matches you to employers based on your experience, and introduces you to those employers. After you sign up and build a profile, you can also receive job hunting tips from Rob McGovern, the Founder and CEO of Jobfox.com. Here is his most recent advice on producing a quality cover letter: More...
Many job seekers have asked me for advice on cover letters. Should I send one? Formal or informal? Email or printed? The same way that "semi-casual" sends partygoers into a tizzy, the new rules of cover letters are confusing almost everyone. In this email I'll attempt to demystify the topic and give you some contemporary pointers.

If job seekers had a choice, they'd kill this relic of the job searching process. The origins of cover letters dates back to the prehistoric time before online job sites. Back then you submitted your resume blindly to companies (since you didn't know whether they were hiring), and the cover letter was designed to introduce you. Today, employers still find them valuable so job seekers have no choice but to submit them.

Here are five contemporary pointers for your next cover letter:

Remember clear, concise and coherent. Don't forget a cover letter will be seen as a writing sample. In today's world of texting, instant messaging and email, many people have skirted by without being able to command the written word. Many employers have told me that they view a well written cover letter as a sign that a candidate knows how to communicate in a professional manner. This means your cover letter must be perfect in format, grammar, and structure.

Keep it short. Brevity is the new normal. It used to be that cover letters were four or five paragraphs. Now two or three paragraphs are the new norm. Don't forget that most cover letters are viewed in email form, and no one likes to read long email messages.

Make sure it is email friendly. Email has become the preferred submission method. Some people are still sending printed cover letters on parchment paper, which frankly makes the candidate look dated. The only exception is for more traditional industries (e.g. law, medical).

Get to the point. Be sure to tell the reader:

Which job you're applying to?
How you learned about the job?
How you can contribute to the organization?
How they can reach you?

Point #1 is very important. If the recruiter is working on five or six different openings, chances are that your resume will be mixed in with job applicants for other jobs within the recruiters inbox. The recruiter needs a few bread crumbs to understand where you belong. The font should be Arial or Times Roman, no background wallpaper, no "bolds", underlines, or italics.

Use formal salutations. Lately we've been seeing email cover letters that start with "Hi Kim," or just "Kim," and end with "Thanks," or "Best,". This is far too informal for my taste. Remember, this is a test of your formal business communication skills, so you need to show your stuff. "Dear Ms. Clark" and "Sincerely," are the salutations of choice.

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