It’s a modern world out there, and getting noticed is more difficult than ever. Ask any hiring manager today what major challenges sit between an able and willing professional and a great job and they will tell you the same thing: “too many applicants, not enough jobs.” So, the first step to getting the job is to shine brighter than all other applicants – and your opportunity to do that lies almost entirely upon your resume and cover letter. One hiring manager we talked to said that a memorable applicant closed his cover letter with a simple and bold “I really like Sam Adams beer.” The American beer lover did not get hired but his willingness to be daring stood out among conservative applicants.
Whether your professional path is completely mapped out or unfolding as you go, you are standing at the trail-head of your search with a strong body of work in your pack, headed to a destination filled with great interviews. The impetus is what lies on the path in between, and that is some clever self-promotion.
The following techniques earned interviews (and in two cases, job offers) with notable companies such as LivingSocial, AOL, Groupon, National Geographic and NASA.
How to Produce a Rock-Star Cover Letter
Tailor the cover letter to the nature of the job and the type of organization that you are applying to. If you are applying to a forward thinking, innovative company, go out on a limb and show your ability to think outside of the box. If you are applying for a writing job that will have you drafting product text to sell to online consumers, write your cover letter as if you are the product, and the hiring manager/organization is the target consumer. Are you in sales? Sell your ability to be likable. Are you in communications? Communicate how your value can increase their bottom line. Are you in design? Design a compelling representation of your creativity. Are you a writer? Tell a story. Editor? Edit the company website!
The moral of the story is to be creative – the more creative the better. If you make a great first impression through your cover letter, a manager can only assume that you will create a great impression with clients and prospects.
Pixel Perfect Cover Letters:
- For Living Social, one applicant became the Daily Deal (see mockup, above inset.)
- For another job, a graphic artist created a highly designed landing page and published it online. In the body of the cover letter, just the url:
Dear Hiring Manager:
Thank you for your consideration.
[Sincerely, Designer Name].
It was ballsy, but it worked. The artist landed the interview.
- Take to Tumblr or Pinterest or any other user-friendly site where you can show your talents in a visual setting.
A Modern Resume
Bring it down to two pages if possible, three if you have a lifetime of experience worthy of sharing. Short bullets will do. Apply restraint—it is wrongfully intuitive to demonstrate your entire life story on your resume. No offense, but nobody wants to read it. Even if you are the most fascinating person on earth, nobody wants to read it.
- Remember that with a resume, you are trying to get the interview, not the job. Save some of the meat to discuss while you are there. This takes care of future dead air!
- Be concise. Choose the accomplishments that you are the most proud of for each section, emphasize the value of them (what they have/can/will produce), and keep it short.
- Put forth your social expertise. Social engagement is everything in business. Place your information right in the resume header. Example:
111 Address Place New York, NY 10453 | 212.222.call | email@example.com
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/johnjane | @johnjane | johnjaneportfolio.com
- Take note of who they are. Does the company that you are applying with use serif or san serif fonts? Use the same in your resume. This shows an understanding of style guides and branding.
- What sets you apart? Do you speak other languages? Have you traveled the world? Are you an experienced public speaker? An athlete? You never know where and when your special skills and experience will be needed. If it matters to you, share it.
- Are you a competitive ping-ponger? Add that fun little fact to your ‘special skills’ section—at least they will know that you will be able to *play ball* at the next company party.
- Share recommendations/testimonials highlighting your work. People are more likely to buy products that have received rave reviews, and the same goes for hiring managers.
- Apply often. Even if you have a job, always be looking for a better one—one that pays more, lives in a more glamorous location, allows for more time off… you never know when a great opportunity will fall into your lap. Also, floating possibilities improves your mood!
- Reach high, as high as the stars and beyond. The worst that can happen is that a company won’t call you. Think of every rejection as an opportunity to show better the next time.
Perform a Social Scrub
All of your online activity is readily searchable. Before applying to any job, perform a social scrub of unprofessional garble on your networks—delete, delete, delete—and leave behind the most clever bites for hiring managers to nibble on. Digital purging is key to finding a good job. Maybe snarky and/or unprofessional bits won’t hurt your chances of getting an interview, but it might hurt you during the hiring or already-hired phase.
Know when to apply to a job with a serious resume and cover letter. Know when to play with different approaches. Know when to button your collar, know when to take a chance. Try to remember that if a prospective employer doesn’t love your approach, your talents, your skills, than it is probably not the right company for you!
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