Monday, November 7, 2011

Reading a job ad, or how to make your cover letter work for you

An article in the Sunday Wall Street Journal section of the 9/18/11 Denver Post on how to read a job ad reminded me of some good tips on answering job ads, especially unusual ones.  The article began with a portion of a company whose help-wanted ad included the sentence "Wanted: Sales agents who are able to stare intently into client eyes while describing what they are looking for."  The point of the ad copy was to help potential job candidates understand that the company needed people who could listen and really understand what the clients needed.  A management consultant suggested that if someone were applying for this job, they should use their cover letter to deal with and respond to this strange comment from the ad.

I've seen cover letters fall a little out of favor these days, but I think even a short cover letter is still handy because it allows you to be conversational with your potential employer.  It also allows you a less-structured way to address the job ad which you're answering.  By writing a cover letter, you can include key words from the job ad and even from a firm's website in your lexicon--as if they were coming from your own mouth--which shows them that you understand what they're looking for.  It's like using active listening, but with the written word instead of the spoken word.

You can also use a cover letter to highlight things that might get lost on your resume.  By calling out in writing a recent award or achievement or successfully-completed project that mirrors and jives with the firm's focuses or interests, you can reinforce that you have what it takes to contribute to a firm and help them achieve their goals.  The cover letter can also be a way to address areas in which you may quite fit the hard requirements from the ad.  For example, if you have eight years of retail architecture experience and the ad asks for a minimum of ten years' worth, you can address that the projects on which you worked were rigorous (international and located on top of a Superfund site!) and would allow you to be a highly-useful and highly-valuable member of their retail architecture team.

No comments:

Post a Comment