A modern cover letter forbids quill pens

Call to Action: Do You Have a Modern Cover Letter?

By Giana / May 25, 2016

Want a modern cover letter? Things have changed over the past few years.  Make sure you don’t miss any of these four valuable points.   You need a modern cover letter. While grandparents represent a vital source of wisdom on many topics, be selective about the advice you decide to take. After all, you’re trying to land a job in 2016. Things have changed. Make sure your cover letter doesn’t look like a throwback to 2015 (gasp!), or worse, the Kennedy administration. As you read this, pull out a copy of your cover letter. See what changes you need to make before you submit it. 

The 80s called. It wants its cover letter back.

Your parents, grandparents, and their peers probably stood where you’re standing, career-wise, in the 80s and 90s. And when they set off in search of entry level career advice, they probably heard tips such as these: Choose heavy, high quality paper for your resume. Type your cover letter, don’t write it out with a ballpoint pen. Be respectful. Don’t dot your I’s with hearts. Don’t include your age, weight, or social security number on your resume, and don’t staple on a photo of yourself. Let’s take an updated look at each of these points.
  • Resume paper for your modern cover letter

Yes, paper applications are still a thing. And yes, you will need to invest in high quality, linen-infused paper at some point during your job search. You’ll need to take printed resumes with you to your interviews, and you might hand them over at networking events. In the meantime, leverage the modern equivalent of the paper cover letter: your online footprint. Make versions of both available 24/7 on your blog, your website, and your LinkedIn profile.  
  • Don’t write your application in crayon

Create a sharp, beautifully formatted resume and cover letter using tools available in the latest version of Word. This is the version of your resume that will get the most traffic and attention, since you’ll be attaching it to your cover letter and submitting it by email for most employers. You can also use apps that allow you to submit and share your resume in real time with largest possible number of people. Before you send your oh-so modern cover letter, change the format to PDF so that your hard work cannot be changed by anyone.
  • What not to share

Modern employers may not be as actively biased as they used to be, but you’ll still need to keep certain information away from your job application. This doesn’t just protect you from discrimination — it also protects employers from accusations of same. Nobody likes to court lawsuits or reputation damaging allegations of bias, so if your letter says too much about your personal life (including your marital and family status) it may end up in the trash. Identity theft is a threat whenever you send information online, so remove your social security number. On public sites, protect your birthdate and your home address.
  • Respect comes in many forms

In the past, a respectful cover letter might start with a phrase like “Dear Sir.” This phrase can generate the exact opposite effect in a modern workplace. Toss out such greetings. And while you’re at it, toss out phrases that aren’t in circulation anymore, like “To whom it may concern.” If you don’t know the honorific or prefix your reader prefers (Ms., Mr., Mrs., Mx., Dr., Councilman, Chairwoman, Professor, etc.) just use the person’s first and last name. You can also use the name of the company. For example, “Dear QualCo” will suffice. Keep in mind that elevated writing, accurate grammar, strong proofreading, and a respectful tone will never go out of style. Turn to LiveCareer to stay on top of shifting job search trends.  

How to Tailor Your Cover Letter, the Easy Way

By Giana / October 10, 2016

Generic cover letters simply do not make the cut. Learn how to tailor your cover letter to each job, quickly and painlessly.

Cover letters are an essential part of the job application process. You’ll need to be prepared to write a unique letter with each job you apply for. If you’ve been on the market for a while, you may have noticed that cover letters take time. So being asked to submit an elegantly written, highly specific, well-researched letter to every outgoing resume can seem like an impossible and impractical chore.

Writing a completely original letter from the ground up can take hours, and most jobseekers can’t afford that kind of time. We suggest starting with a template letter and tailor it to match each job you apply to. Here are a few tips that can help.

Get your template in order first.

There’s no such thing as spending too much time on your template letter. This is the core framework for a message that may reach hundreds of potential employers during your job search, so get this task right. Craft every word of your letter with care. Pull out the stops as you describe what you’re looking for, what you have to offer, and what you’ve accomplished in the past. Keep your letter limited to four paragraphs and make every paragraph perfect. Imagine you’re writing to your dream employer for your dream job. In fact, use your dream employer as the recipient and your dream job as target job title. Put brackets or parentheticals around these details; you’ll be changing them later.

Adjust your job title for each submission.

This is the easy part. For each specific submission, change your ideal title and your ideal employer to reflect the open position in front of you at the moment. After you’ve tailored your letter, your opening sentence should look something like this: “I’d like an opportunity to join [Quality Co.] as your new [Account Services Representative].”

Align your letter with your target role.

Now things become slightly more difficult. In the body of your template letter, in which you describe your background and career ambitions, adjust your wording to match what you know about your employer’s needs, based on their job post. If they want a warm and friendly service provider, that’s what you are. If they want a technical expert, apply that term to yourself - and use the exact term, in case it’s used in a keyword search. If they want an “experienced and highly organized account rep”, they just found one.

Curate your skills.

Do these employers need an expert in Adobe Photoshop or conversational Portuguese? Do they need someone who can manage a database or maintain a server? If the post mentions specific skills that you happen to have, don’t fail to include these skills as you tailor your letter. In order to use your space efficiently, allow less relevant skills to drop off the page.

Curate your experience.

Complete the same task as you describe your achievements and experience. Share the details of your background that are likely to hold the most interest for your specific readers, and skim over the rest.

Mention or omit details as you choose.

Spend at least a few minutes looking over your tailored letter before you send it off, and use these minutes to conduct small tweaks in the details you share and language you use to share them. Your voice and tone should align with what you’ve learned about this employer, their mission, and their workplace culture. For a company that prides itself on being a “fun” place to work, keep your tone lighthearted. If you’re responding to a formal, no-frills post, keep your tone steady and frill-free.

Turn to LiveCareer for sophisticated tools that can help you create a template letter and tailor your words to the needs of your target employer—without spending an entire day on a single application.

Cover Letter Conclusion

Closing Your Cover Letter with Panache

By Randall Hansen / February 10, 2016

  First impressions matter, but last impressions can be just as important. Here's how to wrap up the final notes of your cover letter and say goodbye in style.   When it comes to ranking the importance of each section of your cover letter, your introduction absolutely tops the list. The first few lines of your letter can set the stage for success, and some employers (even if they don't realize they're doing it) make a final decision about your candidacy before they even reach the second paragraph. First impressions matter; no surprises there.   But final impressions matter too. And as important as your opening line may be, your closing line will leave an echo and can certainly sway the balance in your favor. If the final notes of your letter are articulate, respectful, and on-point, your profile may create a deeper impression and last a little while longer in your reader's memory. Here are a few moves that can make that happen.  

Think about the end before you write the beginning.

  This is a general rule that applies to all writing projects, from short stories to news reports. Envision the end of your letter before you start typing your first paragraph. If it helps, draft an outline that summarizes the information you'll include in each section. Creating a road map in this way can help you set a pace and rhythm for your letter so you can say everything you need to say without rushing, rambling, or cutting off abruptly at the end.  

Summarize, but don't repeat.

  You may have learned how to write the standard “five paragraph essay” in the seventh grade, which includes an opening statement, followed by three supporting claims, then a restatement of the primary point at the end. But your professional cover letter is not a 7th-grade essay.  Summarize your most important point if you must (the most important reason your reader should hire you), but don't repeat yourself verbatim. Find a new way to concisely package this unique selling point in a new, fresh way.  

Show yourself out gracefully.

  After you've made your final case (or completed the backstory that explains why you should have this job), thank your readers for their time and attention. Express enthusiasm and provide specific detail about the promising nature of this future partnership. Then wrap it up. Here's an example of how this might sound:   “I hope you'll agree that my past experience aligns perfectly with the demands of the position. I'm excited about this opportunity, and I'd love to meet with you in person to discuss how I can help Qualco complete a successful expansion into the Seattle area youth market.”  

Provide a call to action.

  The very last line of your cover letter should make a suggestion—either subtle or direct—regarding your reader's next move. You can ask for something, give a direct instruction, or gently point your reader toward more information. But no matter what you do, clarify the next action you'd like them to take. Any one of these will do:   “Please review my attached resume and feel free to contact me at your convenience.”   “I'd welcome an opportunity to meet with you in person. Please let me know how we can make this happen.”   “You can learn more about me by reviewing my online profile, which you can find here (insert link)”.   “Please let me know how I can support your business development efforts.”   After you've introduced yourself, stated your case, thanked your reader and offered a call to action, close your message with a respectful sign-off (“Sincerely” will always work), followed by your name and preferred contact information. Then submit your message and get ready to follow up when the moment arrives.   ---   In the meantime, turn to the resume creation resources at Quintcareers and start pursuing the next opportunity.  

To Get Past an Applicant Tracking System, Your Resume Needs These Elements

By LiveCareer / April 20, 2015

Seventh in an occasional series featuring a collaboration between Quint Careers and Jobscan, a service we support because of the wide knowledge gap among job-seekers regarding preparing resumes for employers' Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). The series aims to tell you exactly what you need to know – with the help of Jobscan – about resume content and formatting – to increase the chances your resume will be selected by the ATS software and then considered by human beings.   Whether you're applying for a job at a Fortune 500 company or a start-up, chances are that your resume will meet an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). With up to 90 percent of employers using an applicant tracking system, it's imperative for job-seekers to create resumes that an ATS will notice. If you want to be sure your application is ATS compatible, check it for the following key traits:   Keyword selection Don't copy and paste chunks of text from the job description into your resume. An ATS might penalize you for that. But do echo the way the job description phrases specific terms. And if there is a term that is commonly abbreviated, include both the full version and the abbreviation (such as “registered nurse” and “RN,” or “physician assistant” and “PA”).   Keyword placement In addition to using keywords throughout your experience section, education section, and anywhere else they're appropriate, you can create a [caption id="attachment_952" align="alignright" width="439"]Among the functions Jobscan performs ... Top: Shows skills listed in job posting that are matched in resume and which are missing. Bottom: Graphically compares skills found in job description to those in resume. Among the functions Jobscan performs ... Top: Shows skills listed in job posting that are matched in resume and which are missing. Bottom: Graphically compares skills found in job description to those in resume.[/caption]   separate section to contain numerous keywords, which can function as your skills section. Many an ATS is tripped up by unconventional resume section headers, so do call this section “Skills” rather than “Keywords.” Categorizing the keywords here can help create a section that's easy to understand for both the ATS and the human who eventually sees your resume. Instead of just writing “Social Media,” try “Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat)” — remember, be specific.   It's common for an ATS to take keyword frequency into account when ranking candidates. Thus, some people have tried to game the system and cram in extra keywords using tiny, white text, which makes the keywords ostensibly invisible to the human eye, but still noticeable to an ATS. This trick, and others like it, are now commonly flagged by ATS algorithms and penalized.   Keyword prioritization A job description might include one keyword six times, a handful three times, and others once or twice. It's important to take a job description's keyword frequency into account when identifying the keywords you choose, and their proportions. Try a tool such as Jobscan, which will analyze your resume in comparison to a specific job description, and assess how well they match up plus provide suggestions for ways to improve your resume keyword usage.   Keyword importance Each ATS on the market is slightly different, but one thing they have in common is an emphasis on key resume sections and basic information. These include an applicant's skills, education, years of experience, and names of previous employers. Focus your efforts on including keywords relevant to each of these categories — and remember, if you use an unusual section header in an attempt to stand out, you run the risk of an ATS missing that section entirely.   Cover letter Resumes aren't the only item scanned by an ATS — cover letters count, too. The content of both items is taken into consideration by an ATS when determining how good a fit each applicant is. Writing a cover letter gives you the opportunity to include more and varied keywords, which can only benefit your application, so take advantage of that. Don't skip the cover letter, thinking it doesn't matter — it does.   Final Thoughts Crafting an application that will get you noticed by an applicant tracking system, and ultimately by the human actually doing the hiring, doesn't have to be a time-consuming and complicated task. By using your common sense, your familiarity with your field, and the assortment of tools available to job seekers online, you can easily make yourself into a candidate who gets ATS attention.    
Authored by Dr. Katharine Hansen