Times are getting tight, the economy’s in a nose dive and I’m one of the many who find myself laid off and without steady employment prospects (aka a job). Rather than freak out, however, I’m trying to make sure that I’m doing the very best I can to try and get a new job. I’m using LinkedIn, Craigslist, and all my personal networks, but I’m unsure in this day of job sites and database searches whether I should still be using traditional application strategies. Specifically, do I need to both with a cover letter when I apply for a job via email?
Sorry to hear about your employment situation. You’re right, there’s a lot of turbulence on this portion of our economic flight through the clouds right now, as demonstrated by the completely unpredictable behavior of the stock market.
Because it’s an employers market for new hires – because so many people are out of work and looking for a new job – I think you need to do the very best you can for every single job for which you apply. A sloppy resume submitted via monster.com is unlikely to produce any positive results at all which not only ends up being massively depressing after a while but also means that you can’t reapply with a better package, so it kind of burns bridges too. Not good.
Instead, yes, you’re right that the “old ways” of applying for a job absolutely still apply to the modern world and modern job quest. A very well organized and attractively laid-out resume – in PDF format, don’t rely on MS Word to lay things out for them how they look on your screen – and a smart, succinct cover letter that you can customize for each job is a must.
Just as importantly, if you think your experiences speak for themselves, well, you’re wrong. Assume that the person reading your submission is scanning through hundreds of applicants and really wants to do something else, so they’re flying through things as fast as possible. In fact, most hiring managers “triage” applicants, instantaneously discarding those without cover letters, those without credentials that match the job listing, those with typos, poor grammar, spelling errors, etc. That usually weeds out at least 75% of applicants.
The rest are in the “let me spend an additional 90 seconds on this person” bin and for those it’s critical that you make their life as easy as possible. A cover letter that’s long and complex is less useful than a short one that demonstrates you applied for the specific job listed and the two or three key skills you have that make you a perfect match.
This is why if you have an online resume, a Web site that lists all your credentials, your portfolio of work, your smartly written weblog, links to your Facebook profile, etc etc., that you can’t just email them a URL. Why? Because most hiring managers don’t have the time to click on the link and scan through a Web page / web site to figure out the basic “are they credible?” questions they have about you.
Get over your self-importance and create an application that makes the job of the hiring manager as easy as possible and you’ll find you get a lot more interviews and callbacks than if you just assume that they’ll find you in the great morass of resume databases or will wade through your wicked personal Web site.
Added tip: If you’re having trouble writing your cover letter, a good place to start is www.CoverLetterExamples.net: the site offers dozens of resume cover letter templates to get you started. Don’t use any template letter verbatim — be sure to add your own unique qualities and experience. A cover letter template should give you a push in the right direction.
And very best of luck to you!