As a professional resume writer, I am often asked this question from clients. My experience indicates that many employers will not even consider candidates who do not include a cover letter with their application – it’s your chance to stand out from other applicants – so the answer is always a resounding YES!
Many clients come to us requesting a ‘general’ cover letter that addresses a variety of roles they would like to apply for in the future. Whilst this can be achieved, I can’t stress enough the importance of specifically targeting your cover letter to individual roles. I always advise clients to modify their cover letter to specifically suit each role they apply for and never just reuse the same letter.
It’s important that the recruiter immediately identifies with you as someone who could do their job well. This means you need to spend some time analysing the role you are applying for and matching the requirements to your own skills and experience.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to making it to the top of the recruiter’s pile:
- Be Succinct – clearly and briefly (no more than one A4 page) highlight why you are an ideal candidate. Do take care not to be too brief though. Don’t simply state that you think you’d be great in the role and refer the recruiter to your attached resume. Provide an overview of your background, summarise the relevant parts of your resume, and identify yourself as perfect for the role.
- Cross Match Your Skills – Sit down with the job ad and/or position description and go through it in detail – work out where your strengths lie. Make notes on all the areas you’d like to focus on. Your cover letter should highlight applicable skills, experiences, qualifications, achievements, projects and general knowledge, then demonstrate (again briefly) how they match the specific requirements of the role.
- Add Value – Take the time to do some research into the company and mention why you would like to work for them – highlight similar roles you’ve held or companies you’ve worked for and how that experience might help you succeed in this role. Make sure you mention relevant achievements or projects.
- Request Contact – Always ensure your contact details are prominent on the cover letter and ask for an opportunity to discuss your experience / background further. Make sure you include your email address and mobile phone number at a minimum.
Don’t mention anything in the cover letter that isn’t mentioned in your resume and focus on ‘what’s in it for them’ – the employer needs to feel compelled to shortlist you for the job – so give them a reason to do so. Good luck!
If you are interested in getting assistance from a professional CV Writer to prepare a winning cover letter for your next job application, please see our CV Writing Services.
Many job seekers come to us unsure about whether or not they need a LinkedIn profile. The fact is, many recruiters and employers now use LinkedIn extensively to source candidates. This includes advertising positions on LinkedIn as well as conducting proactive searches to find passive candidates. As well, many roles don’t even make it to recruiters with LinkedIn networks fulfilling them before they’re even advertised.
LinkedIn is not just useful when searching for a new job – when you join LinkedIn, you’re also gaining access to people, news, updates, and insights that will help you advance your career. You can exchange ideas with others in your industry and easily stay in touch with past colleagues and clients.
Since LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 200 million members around the world and more than 3 million members in Australia, we think it’s vital for candidates to have a strong profile written with relevant keywords in mind. Your LinkedIn profile needs to be easy to find by recruiters and interesting enough to get noticed by people within your immediate and extended network.
If you don’t have a profile yet, I suggest you join up. Try to complete as much information as you can – at a minimum ensure you have the following:
- a photo – professional head and shoulders shot;
- headline – use all the available characters to create your own personal brand;
- summary – focus on who you are, what you do, key strengths, and what you offer employers;
- education – include everything to provide more opportunities for connections;
- roles – include as many as you can – again this provides opportunities for connections (as well as recommendations) – include specific detail for roles covering at least the past 10 years; and
- skills & expertise – think broad here and include everything you want to be known for.
A few tips to get you started:
- If you’re looking for a new job, use a personal email address to sign up.
- Aim to achieve and maintain an ‘All Star strength’ profile – see the ‘profile strength meter’ on the right side of your profile for more information.
- Invite contacts to join your network – don’t be afraid to contact all your current and previous colleagues, managers, clients, classmates, friends etc. across all your business networks.
- Ask for recommendation(s) for every role held.
- Follow companies that interest you.
- Always keep your profile up to date.
There’s a whole raft of additional information that can be included in your LinkedIn Profile which is where you can start to add significant value. Join groups and interact with them, add interests, projects you’ve worked on, courses/certifications you’ve achieved, awards you’ve received, language skills, publications you’ve contributed to, articles you’ve written, and information on volunteering and causes where appropriate.
Remember, LinkedIn profiles are different to resumes. The content should be more general, concise and web-friendly. LinkedIn is your opportunity to create your own personal brand, so don’t be afraid to inject some personality.
If you need assistance from a professional LinkedIn Profile Writer to help you create a keyword optimised profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors, please see our LinkedIn Profile Writing Services.
Selection criteria need not be feared, but it is worth investing some time and effort to prepare winning responses that help get you noticed. It can be easy to get carried away with irrelevant facts, or worse, not provide enough detail to showcase your ability and experience to the selection panel.
When addressing selection criteria, it’s very important to understand some of the common words used:
- demonstrated capacity
- proven ability
- knowledge of
All these words are asking for a different view of you and it’s vital that you read the selection criteria carefully then provide the specific information requested. Also, you should respond to each criterion individually, unless the application states otherwise.
When preparing your responses, the most important aspect is providing appropriate evidence or proof. It is essential that you take the time to think about specific, relevant examples from past work or other experience where you can demonstrate how your ability, skills, experience or knowledge helps you meet the criterion.
This is where the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) model comes into play. By thinking about your example in the context of STAR you can formulate a clear and concise answer. Use these points to brainstorm potential examples:
- Situation – What was the circumstance, situation or setting you found yourself in?
- Task – What was your role?
- Action – What did you do and how did you do it?
- Result – What did you achieve? What was the outcome and, if possible, how does it relate to the position you are applying for?
Once you have decided which examples to use, you need to craft your response. Be clear and concise – don’t confuse the reader and don’t skimp on detail. Remember to take into account any specified word count or page limits – make sure you stick to these or risk your application being culled before it’s even read. Prepare a brief introduction that sets the scene before referencing the example to support your claim. This is the most important part of your response and must be written with strong and positive language. The example should preferably be recent – and not older than five years if possible. Pay attention to the language used in the criterion to ensure you address specifically what’s being asked – remember there is a difference between phrases like ‘knowledge of’ and ‘demonstrated capacity’.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should also triple check your document for spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors since this is often another way of culling responses.
Most importantly – be honest – your responses should reflect your role without exaggeration or ambiguity. And remember, this is a process that requires time and effort – don’t leave it until the last minute and you will be more likely to succeed.
If you would like assistance from a professional resume writer with preparing selection criteria for a job application, please see our Resume Writing Services.
For many people, asking for a salary increase can be difficult, especially in these turbulent times, however with a bit of preparation you’ll be well on your way to success. Here’s my tips:
Planning is key and requires forward thinking throughout the year. Take some time to build your evidence. Think creatively here – it’s not just about the everyday. Meeting targets and KPIs is not ‘value add’. You need to put yourself in your boss’ shoes for a minute and consider what’s going to be of most value to them.
It does help if you have tangible achievements, however it’s not always necessary. Think about projects you’ve contributed to, collaboration with other team members, extra tasks or responsibilities you’ve taken on, new processes you’ve initiated, customer accolades received or major deadlines met. Think about things you did that made you feel proud. In your day to day work, try to go above and beyond what’s expected of you some of the time. And remember to keep notes and records of all your achievements, savings, accolades and commendations.
Understand the process within your organisation and be prepared. Policies around performance reviews and salary increases vary from organisation to organisation. Many are closely aligned and others are not. Some employers give salary increases to those who ask and others have a very formal process to review everyone’s salary within a specific timeframe. There are also factors outside of your control that may impact on whether or not you receive an increase. They include things like current economic stability, competitor influences and how well the business has performed.
You should also look at the strength of the market and research how difficult (or easy) you would be to replace. Think about your unique skills and abilities that might make you irreplaceable. Ascertain what your value is on the open market by researching job sites and salary surveys, asking industry associations, talking with recruitment consultants or friends in similar roles.
Combine this information with your record of achievements and contributions and if need be prepare a written document. Organise to meet with your boss and, if possible, try to do so at a time that coincides with the completion of a big project or another positive situation.
The last and all important stage. Again, put yourself in your boss’ shoes and ask yourself “Why do I deserve a salary increase?”. Have a clear idea of what you’re looking for and ask for it – remember your evidence and keep it clear and succinct. Don’t expect too much, don’t plead and don’t become confrontational. Also, make sure it’s the right time – manage your boss’ emotions and don’t try to do this if he/she is stressed or under pressure. You can have the best plan in the world, but if you try to impact your boss when they’re not receptive, you will fail.
Remember to be open minded – there are rewards other than money such as training, education, representation on a major project, increased responsibilities that will expose you to new skills (and make you more marketable), flexible work conditions, improved equipment, or if all else fails, try to agree another review/discussion in three months time. Good Luck!
For career advice and interview coaching on how to negotiate your remuneration package in job interviews, please see our Interview Training services.
What’s NOT in your resume is almost as important in making that all important first impression as what IS in there. Your resume will probably be one of many received, so give yourself the best chance at getting noticed for all the right reasons!
As a resume writer, people often ask me why I don’t include certain information. Here’s a quick list of what I never include and why.
Career Objective: Don’t waste words stating what you want. Put yourself in the employers’ shoes. Your resume needs to scream “What’s in it for me?” from their perspective. We suggest including a Career Overview that provides a snapshot of you, your relevant qualifications, skills and experience and the value you could bring to the role.
Lies: Never exaggerate your responsibilities or achievements. The interviewer may use your resume content as a basis for interview questions so don’t make statements that you can’t talk about or back up in more detail.
Photo: Unless you are a model or an actor, it’s not necessary. Since it is discriminatory to hire or not hire someone based on their looks, including a photo could be a distraction. Some recruiters even go so far as culling resumes with photos.
Quirky Email Addresses: Having a 007 or Catwoman email address might be fun but it just isn’t professional. Create an email address containing your first and last name/initials – or the best combination of these you can achieve.
Personal Blogs, Facebook or Twitter Accounts: If you have a Linkedin profile, include a link, but never point employers to personal social media accounts. They will often find something not to like – and if they wanted to, they could probably find it on their own anyway. Don’t tempt fate and always exclude these.
Unfinished Degrees: Especially if they were more than a couple of years ago – fair enough if you put study on hold for personal reasons but not if it was 10 years ago – it could highlight commitment issues in the employer’s mind so I recommend excluding it altogether. For study currently underway – always state your ‘anticipated completion date’ so the employer knows how far along you are.
High School Details: Unless you have just left school, it’s not necessary. If you have tertiary qualifications, or some work history behind you, there is no need to include high school information.
Personal Information: It’s not necessary to include age, height, weight, marital status, children, health, religious, cultural or political associations so don’t waste space by doing so.
Spelling or Grammatical Errors: Goes without saying really, but this is a big one. Always triple check your content and don’t submit an application with mistakes. Again, recruiters report a big reason to cull is spelling or grammatical errors.
You don’t usually get a second chance to make a first impression. Your resume is your first step in the door – if you don’t put your best foot forward, your physical foot may never make it in that door!
If you are interested in having your resume written by a professional resume writer, please see our Resume Writing Services.
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