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From me to them

By Liliana Palermo
For the Herald

Cover letters are dead: do this instead

 

Many recruiters say that they don't read cover letters, but you can still personalise your pitch (1) by making these changes to your resume.

If you’re looking for a new job, don’t worry about writing a stellar (2) cover letter. Nearly two-thirds of recruiters say it’s not an important factor when they review applications, according to a survey of 1,400 recruiters by Jobvite, a recruiting software provider.

In fact, the cover letter is quickly becoming a dinosaur when it comes to hiring, says Jobvite chief people officer Rachel Bitte, and its demise (3) is due to three things: speed, technology, and volume.

"Most companies today recruit online and receive applications through software systems that often don’t include a section for a cover letter," she says. "Some industries, particularly those in Silicon Valley, receive a large amount of applications. The pace at which companies need talent has also grown exponentially, so finding the right person quickly is very important.

“Recruiters who get cover letters say they ignore them. Instead, they want to get to the meat (4) of someone’s background by diving into the résumé.”

Unfortunately, the cover letter used to be the perfect place to personalise your pitch and highlight information that doesn’t shine on a bulleted (5) job history. To stand out now, applicants need to get creative and change the traditional résumé format to serve their needs.

Bitte says there are four things you can do on your résumé to make up for the loss of the letter:

1. ADD A SUMMARY

One way to provide more details is to include a summary. Located at the top of the résumé, it’s made up of two or three sentences that highlight what makes you different from other applicants. Similar to an elevator pitch (6), it’s where you share a high-level competency, niche, or career focus. The summary replaces the "objective" that was once a popular component of a resume.

2. INCLUDE PERSONAL INFORMATION

Applicants are also including personal interests in their résumés, says Bitte. Added to the bottom of the résumé, it gives hiring managers a sense of the candidate’s personality before they call them in for an initial interview. You can include hobbies, volunteer activities, or relevant club memberships. If you are applying to a company with offices in more than one area, you might also point out if you are willing to relocate.

3. HIGHLIGHT ACCOMPLISHMENTS

In addition to your employment history and job descriptions, include bulleted points under each entry with critical elements that hiring managers are looking for. "What were your two or three major accomplishments?" asks Bitte. "What results did you get? Offer concrete data, such as, ‘I helped increase employee engagement by x percent.’ This richness makes a résumé stand out in comparison to your peers."

4. PROVIDE YOUR SOCIAL

MEDIA HANDLES (7)

Hiring managers are looking at your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles, whether or not you include the links on your resume, says Bitte. It can be proactive to not only offer a link, but to be vigilant (8) about what you’ve posted on these platforms because they give hiring managers a great deal of insight (9).

"What’s interesting is that companies aren’t judging your personality from your posts; they’re looking for a culture fit (10)," says Bitte. "Cover letters used to be the medium to figure that out, but that’s no longer the case. Today, social media can tell a hiring manager a lot more, and they’re using it to find the right fit."

Adapted from a story by Stephanie Vozza, Fast Company

“pitch” (1)

“Your pitch” in the context of the article is the line that you design in order to persuade somebody. It is what you say, write, or create to suit a particular audience.

“stellar” (2)

The adjective “stellar” is synonymous with “principal, leading,” as in a stellar role. In the context of the article, “stellar” means “outstanding,” “of an extremely high standard, as in a stellar performance.

“demise” (3)

The demise of a person is their death; of an entity, activity or habit, it is its termination of existence or activity, as in the demise of the empire / the demise of zoos.

“get to the meat” (4)

If you get to the meat (of the matter), you get to the most important, basic, or fundamental essence or elements of an issue at hand. Before we get to the meat, I’d like to listen to your impressions on the new premises.

“bulleted” (5)

In printing, “bullets” are the heavy dots – and other shapes – that are used for marking paragraphs or items on a list. If a text is bulleted, it looks like a list with different items preceded by “bullets.”

“elevator pitch” (6)

An elevator pitch is a very concise representation of an idea (in the case of the article of your background and assets to get the job) covering all the critical aspects, and delivered within a short span of time, the time that elapses during an elevator ride. The goal of such a “pitch” is to convince your audience that your idea (your skills and qualifications for the position) is something that they need to know more about.

“handles” (7)

A person’s “handles” are their usernames on online forums or social media sites. She’s changed her Twitter handle after she quit her high position in the company.

“vigilant” (8)

If a person is vigilant, they are alertly watchful, always careful to notice and especially avoid danger. Since some belongings have been reported missing, the staff have been told to be extra vigilant from now on.

“insight” (9)

If you get insight, you have a clear deep understanding of a complicated situation: The book is full of fascinating insights into human relationships / I got more insights about the situation by talking to people than by reading the research carried out.

“culture fit” (10)

The expression “culture fit” makes reference to the compatibility that there exists between the norms and values of an organisation and those of the person, the applicant in this case. According to this notion, an understanding of our individual personality is profoundly important in maximising our happiness and productivity at work. Along these lines, a positive cultural fit can improve our self-esteem and make us feel more capable of carrying out our work to the best of our ability. Studies have shown that not only the company and the individual benefit but also friends and family who get a happier person.

Sincerely,

Though many forms of traditional communication in companies have fallen out of use due to the need for fast communication (Think: when was the last time you were asked to write a formal letter in request or offer of services or products in this modern world?), there are two items that have survived, and they have a larger impact than we think, namely: the way to address and the way to close lines in formal communication.

So, even though you might choose the freedom of creating your own style in the body of the letter, e-mail, or intranet chunks, it is always good to hit the nail on the spot on the very first line of your creative writing effort.

Consider the addressing line of the letter, and the complimentary close as the slices of bread in a sandwich. You can get creative later in the flavours and items, but for a sandwich to be deemed as such, you can’t escape the reality of packing the lot in two slices of bread.

The way to address the letter is by using the title Mr or Ms before the last name followed by either a comma or a colon. If you are not sure about the gender identity of the addressee, you can use a gender-neutral greeting: Dear Robin Aldrey.

The complimentary close – the word or phrase that conventionally appears before the sender’s signature or the name at the end of an email – is a difficult issue to decide upon when you are writing a letter of any kind. However, the choice is clearer when it comes to business letters or e-mails, since the formalities are followed by most people involved. The first word is capitalised and the whole phrase is followed by a comma. The most commonly used closing is “Sincerely,” although you can pick any phrase from the list that follows: Yours sincerely, Very sincerely yours, Sincerely yours, Sincerely, Cordially, Most sincerely, Most cordially, Cordially yours.

There’s a lot more to say about business and formal letters but the impact of addressing the letter correctly and closing it neatly will be an important first step.

@lilipalermo

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