The Cover Letter
The cover letter is just as important to the employment process as your resume. It is your first introduction and is used to convince the person reading your letter that they should take a good look at your resume.
To have greater impact, you should customize each letter you send out. Sending fifty copies of the same letter may lead a recruiter to think you do not have specific interest in any particular company or position. You should always try to send the letter to a specific individual. Never send a blind letter “to whom it may concern.” Wherever possible address the person who is conducting the search.
Tell the recruiter what skills and behaviours you might bring to the role and what sets you apart, but strike a balance. We understand that everyone is pretty good in a resume, but laying it on too thick will raise eyebrows. Follow up with a phone call if you don’t hear back.
Make sure you are easy to contact by providing your email address plus your mobile, home and work numbers. Any skilled recruiter will be very discreet about contacting you at work.
If you are responding to a specific job posting or employment advertisement, you should make reference to one or two of the items listed in the ad. Do not go overboard in explaining everything your resume already describes. Keep your cover letter short and simple. One page is enough.
Preparing a resume became complex for a while. There was a time when style triumphed over content. As the Internet and data management evolves, an increasing number of documents are being sent electronically, the focus is shifting towards content. In the past, it was important to have a one page, or in special circumstances, a two page resume that was laid out in an appealing format, easy to read and a minor masterpiece of modern design. The use of scanning, electronic capture and artificial intelligence in database searches means that content is now more important than format.
Internet job sites and the ease of emailing an application have resulted in recruiters being hit with large numbers of very marginal (meaning irrelevant) applications. There is pressure on recruiters to read resumes quickly. Having a short, organized document that quickly brings the reader to the point is now more critical. The resume needs to be able to tell the reader why and how you will benefit the company.
The purpose of a resume is to get you invited to interview. Nothing more; nothing less. It is an advertisement; a document designed to convince the recruiter that it is in their best interest to interview you.
Some suggestions for preparing a resume:
- Include a “Summary” section. Companies are more concerned with what tangible and measurable successes you can bring to their organization. If you have particular goals or objectives you want the company to be aware of, bring them up in the interview, do not dwell on them in your resume.
- After the “Summary” section, job seekers can put a list of “Key words”. This list can include 6-20 separate words. This serves two purposes. It creates a list for the person reading the resume to focus in on what you can do, and it will be picked up in database searches.
- Double and triple check for spelling and grammatical errors. Use spelIing and grammar checkers. You may be the best candidate with the best experience, so don’t risk being put aside because your document paints the picture of an inability to pay attention to detail. (We laugh here about how the use of the words “high attention to detail” in a ducoment ivnites teh warth of the ressume gosd. Do it your peril)
- It is better to have multiple versions of your resume. Remember, the purpose of the resume is to get you invited to the interview. As each job and interview situation will be different, so should the corresponding resume.
- There are different philosophies on lay-out. An entry-level job seeker will have their education listed at the top of their resume, while the resume of a more experience person with two or three jobs will put their education at the bottom. Sales resumes should include very specific numbers or percentages of volume sold to demonstrate a track record. Don’t bother with written references. We rarely read them, largely because we have never seen a bad one.
Don’t bother including every certificate and document from your colourful life. If certificates are important, we will ask to see them.
Summarize your capabilities and highlight the achievements. List your key words and then, starting with your most recent job, list the name and location of the company, your job title and a brief description of your responsibilities. This should all relate back to the information in your summary section.
When reviewing your own resume, pretend you are interviewing yourself. Why would you want to hire you?
The Interview Process
The most likely structure of an interview is one in which you will be asked questions about your work history. You can expect questions that start with something like “Tell me about a time when you..?”
This is called behavioural interviewing and is based on the notion that previous performance and behaviours are the best indicators of future performance and behaviours. It is quite unlikely that you will be asked hypothetical questions (How would you weigh an elephant?) If you are asked such a question, ask the interviewer what they are trying to learn from the answer. Tailor your answer to the skills or behaviours they want to know about.
You can expect a similar format in an interview with the client company. Some companies will want to do phone interviews, some will want to see you in person for the first interview. Your recruiter will tell you about each company as you go through the process.
Integra will provide you with information about your prospective employer to help you with the interview process and also try to tell you about the person you will be meeting with. However, you should also do some work yourself. Ask around for information on the company and get on to their web site.
You need to satisfy yourself that you really want to work there. Some employers ask candidates to undergo psychometric testing. These tests measure particular abilities and attributes. Some tests measure numerical, language or abstract reasoning. Others are designed to predict your personal style and behavioural attributes. This site may provide you with some useful background on these tests.