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Just like a resume, a cover letter is a weapon to “sell yourself” to the hiring managers. What differs between the two are the format and content. Resume is a brief description of your cover letter. In cover letter, you should write in detail about personal information and professional quality in order to attract recruiters to shortlist your job application.

Tim Windhof, an executive resume writer at Windhof Career Services in Columbus, Ohio, advices that your cover letter should address the following: how you learn about the opportunity, how your qualifications match the job requirements, your possible availability in the area and how you can be contacted. In brief, your cover letter must describe “why it should be you and not others”.

Take a look at the following tips on how to write an appealing cover letter for successful job search:

01 Choose wording that mirror the ad language  

Before writing a cover letter, you should review the job ads carefully and underline the main points. If your cover letter will be read by hiring managers, they are more likely to skim brief at first to see whether you are a good fit or not. You can increase your chance of getting shortlisted when your cover letter matches most requirements listed in the job ads.

Don’t embellish your qualifications if you don’t really meet the requirements. Only write down real information and present yourself in the best manner by describing as many qualities as you can. You never know which qualifications employers value most.

02 Pay attention to readability

This is important as a cover letter written in readable format will likely to win employer’s heart. In a cover letter, you should only use business letter format. This will make the recruiter to only focus on your content rather than on the writing style. Business letter format usually comes along with 1” – 1.5” margins, 12-point font, professional font, uniform alignment (justify).

03 Address it to specific person

Do your homework and find out who will be responsible to receive and check your job application. Calling or sending email to the contact person provided in the job ads can be an effective way to get such information. You can also ask questions or confirm certain information related to the job opportunity to the right source instead of wondering around.

If you are sending the cover letter via post mail, make sure to write both the employer’s and your address. It usually contains first and last name, street address, city, state zip, and postal code, phone and email for applicant.

Example:

Your Name

Address

City, State, ZIP code

Your phone number

Your email address

 

Date

 

Name of Hiring Manager

Name of Company or Organization

Street Address

City, State, Zip Code

On the other hand, if you send the cover letter via email, you can simply start by writing the hiring manager’s name. This is much better than writing with to whom it may concern. Yet, in a situation where you can’t find the name of the hiring manager or head of HRD, you can address your letter to “Dear Hiring Manager.” It’s a better choice than starting with Dear Sir/Madam.

04 Brief introduction

In this part, you should start with when and where you find the job opening. Make sure to specify job position that you want to apply, especially when the company post multiple job positions. Make it into a paragraph that contains two to four sentences.

05 Compelling content

To grab the hiring manager’s attention, you should start by writing your educational background, followed by your achievements such as related training or internships you have completed and work experiences. However, if you are a fresh graduate with no job or internship experience, you can emphasise other skills such as organisational, leadership, or even time management skill, etc.

You can write it in two to three paragraphs for the content. However, you should not be wordy or  spill too much information. Sometimes, giving too much information can hinder you from getting the job offer.

06 A-Okay closing

Always finish your cover letter by asking for an interview and reiterating how much you want to proceed to the next step of hiring process. Also, do not forget to always provide your phone number so the recruiter can contact you with ease.

07 Signature

Always give signature to either written or email cover letter. Use complimentary closing sentence such as best regards, regards, sincerely, yours respectfully, etc. In a written letter, just simply write your full name. Meanwhile in an email, always type your name followed by contact information.

Example:

Sincerely,

(your signature)

Your full name

Mobile: (66) 987-98787

Email: andie@andiejone.com

08 Proofread, proofread, and proofread

Lastly, you should give the right amount of time to proofread your work – in this case, your cover letter, maybe two or three times proofreading. Find out spelling or grammar errors that might lessen your chance from getting shortlisted. Again and again, cut out the flowery words as too much description or information will make your cover letter look unprofessional. As best as possible, keep your cover letter only in one page.

Read also: Passion versus Skill: What Comes First in a Job Search?

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You have graduated from uni with an excellent GPA. Now, you need to prepare yourself to enter the workforce and land a job in your dream company. Before applying for a job, first you have to ensure that you already have the most important weapon in a job hunt: an attractive resume.

A good resume should be more than just a dull list of your academic achievements and personal information. That being said, to write a resume that will get shortlisted by recruiter is not the same as writing a caption for your Instagram updates. There are things you should consider such as the template, opening statement, and career overview. You must put all the best qualities on a single paper to sell yourself because usually a recruiter only give a brief 10 seconds looking at each resume.

Therefore, you should be smart enough to write only relevant qualifications or else you will lose the opportunity to catch the hiring manager’s interest. If you are a fresh graduate seeking to get that dream job, here is a guide to write your first professional resume:

1. Know the audience

Resume is a marketing tool to sell your ability, experience, and accomplishment in order to snatch a job. You should make sure that its message is targeted to right recipients: employer and recruiter. Therefore, before writing a resume for job application, you should consider:

  • The company: including its history, products, services, culture, and recent developments.
  • The specific requirements: skills and experience.  

2. Choose the right style  

You should choose the best style for your resume. There are 3 styles of resumes in general: chronological, functional, and combination. Chronological resumes focus on work experience and list of professional experience from the most to the least recent. Functional style focuses on skills more. Yet, normally, a combination of both styles will work on your first resume. You can point out your professional experience while still draw attention on your skills.

Moreover, you should not forget to certain format on your resume. Normally, resumes have header, career objectives, statement, skills and abilities, work experience, education, and interest. Don’t forget to always highlight the skills and abilities that are relevant to the job.

3. Start with the basic

Before we move to the more complicated task, let’s start by writing the most basic information that should be written on a resume: name, address, phone number, and email address. Make sure to give a professional email address. An email address like mixblond113@gmail.com will not work and the recruiter might think that you are just joking around. Therefore, you should create a professional email right away if you don’t have any.

4. Personal statemen

Recruiters are not only interested in why you are applying for the position and what you can do. They are also curious in who you are as a person. Therefore, providing a personal professional statement on your resume is always a good start to let them know who you are. You can use these questions as a guide to write your statement:

  • Do you fit the company culture?
  • Is your personality and attitude a good match for the company and team?
  • What makes you believe you will land a job in that company?
  • What is so interesting about your life?

5. Job posting as a guide

The best way to summarise your skill and experience is to tailor it with job description. Many recruiters use applicant tracking system (ATS) to shortlist resume, especially if there are so many jobseekers applying. Therefore, you should be able to keep it simple and make sure to include some ‘keywords’ in your resume so the ATS can scan it. Usually, the keywords recruiters use are: hard skills and soft skills. The more you can match with those skills in the job description, the more chances you can get that job.

6. Keep it one page

The average duration recruiters spend to review a resume is 10 seconds. You should make it concise and lean by getting rid of all the fluff. As your first resume should fit in one page, you can only write relevant information in it. For example, if you are applying for a design graphic programmer but you have worked at a McDonalds for 1 year, it will be better if you don’t include that experience in your resume unless it is relevant.

7. Professional look

To impress the recruiter, you should give it a professional look. Make sure that your resume is easy to read by using: common font styles (cambria, calibri, or helvetica styles), give 12 to 14 font size, use appropriate spacing, no more than six highlight and bullet points, margins 1” all around, and left aligned format. However, if you are a graphic designer, you can impress recruiters by designing your resume as creative and unique as possible.

8. Use action and power words

Recruiters are more interested in reviewing resumes that are really dynamic and impressive in action. In order to give that impression, you should use the right action verbs and powerful words. Few examples of those words are achieved, created, generated, initiated, organized, introduced, identified, improved, resolved, launched.

9. Proofread your resume

Finally, never submitted raw resumes that have not been proofread. Before submitting your resume, make sure to always double check or ask your friend to review it. This process will give you clues whether your resume is A-okay to be read by recruiter or not. Also, you can be aware of the misspelling words that will make your resume look unprofessional.

Read also: Passion versus Skill: What Comes First in a Job Search?

If there’s anything stronger than your resume to secure an interview call, it is your cover letter that creates an impression on the minds of the employer. A brilliant resume might showcase to your future employer, that you possess the required educational background and promising potential. However the truth is a resume in itself is not enough.

Among other equally qualified and talented candidates, why should the company choose you instead? What could make them believe that you are the best fit for the job role? Relax! A well-written cover letter is the answer to these questions.

If the process of job searching can be pictured literally to draw comparisons with ‘hunting’ experience, then you do need resilient weapons to bring the game home. If a resume can be said to be an arrow, then cover letter is the bow that will help the arrow to hit the target right.

This creative example applies in job seeking too, wherein a cover letter is meant to complement the resume. But can’t you just rely on a resume? Not all of it. It’s important to remember that, the arrow released from the bow will work more effectively than those arrows that are thrown away with empty hands.

Going by the parable, we can say that cover letter is a complementary tool to confirm and empower what’s being stated in the resume. It is an efficient way to demonstrate your skills and experiences. Therefore, the writing process of a cover letter should not be taken lightly.

In just a few paragraphs, you should be able to explain your qualifications and experiences in the right professional tone and retain the hiring manager’s attention to be thereafter called for an interview. No wonder, writing a perfect cover letter requires extra efforts and commitment.

Then the real question is, how should you write a compelling and meaningful cover letter, instead of a cliché one? To help you stay off the damaging cover letter pitfalls, here are 9 things you should never state:

  1.       Wrong or false information

Well, this might be obvious. But actually, to find candidates telling lies in their resume is not something uncommon. Don’t risk your reputation by putting wrong or false information in the cover letter as well. Always pay attention to minute details, usage of words and phrases, and double check if you have written the name, address, job title, and other information correctly.

  1.       Spelling or grammatical errors

Your friend might just shrug his shoulder when you make typos during a friendly chat. However, if such typo errors are found in your cover letter, it will impact your chances of getting called for an interview, not sure if hired later either. Therefore, after penning down your cover letter, check for  grammatical and spelling mistakes or punctuation errors. To avoid making silly mistakes, you can perhaps ask your friend to proofread the cover letter as well.

  1.       Cliché language

There are hundreds of resumes and cover letters piling up on employer’s desk everyday for a certain job role. If you bore them in your cover letter using cliché and generic language, then you fail to position yourself differently and unique than anyone else. This could make the recruiter to simply lose interest in your candidature. Therefore, showcase your efforts by crafting the cover letter carefully to eliminate usage of cliché phrases, and by replacing them with unique expressions that reflect your true personality.

  1.       Revealing your weaknesses

A cover letter is all about telling what you can offer, if selected for the position. So, do not mention any skills and qualifications that you do not possess at this point in time, because it will only reveal your weaknesses instead. Focus on how you can make most of this opportunity to retain the hiring manager’s attention, impress the potential employer with your skills and knowledge to be shortlisted and called for interview rounds.

  1.       Negative remarks

Maybe you left your last job in awkward situations and not really amicable terms with your past employer. However, this does not mean that you can talk negatively about them, criticise or badmouth the former organisation. Such attitude is not only unethical, but your potential employer could also perceive it as a sign of attitude or performance issues.

  1.       Personal information

Cover letter is about you on what you can offer to the company and how. Therefore, it is crucial to always appear professional in a cover letter. You should not mention any personal information that has nothing to do with the job or the company. If you want to talk about your personal issues or challenges, you can wait until you get selected for a personal round of interview.

  1.       Overselling yourself

Yes, it is important to emphasise your pluses rather than minuses. But there’s a thin line of difference to be followed as your sell your skills to the future employer – do not sound conceited, egoistic, closed minded or over proud of your achievements. While you need to highlight your accomplishments positively, make sure to not make it sound exaggerated.

  1.       Excessive flattery

Do not sugar-coat your cover letter with excessive praise and flattery, just for the sake of gaining attention. People can easily tell the difference between genuine remarks and the empty sweet talks.

  1.       Talking about salary

While we all know that every hiring process will come down to the money-talk. There is always a time right for discussing salary and compensations later, but not to state the same far ahead of time on your cover letter. This is one big mistake. Unless you are asked to mention and clearly state your salary expectations in the cover letter, you should rather keep such discussions until you are called for a personal interview.

Cover letter can help you unlock doors to the best job opportunity and get your candidature shortlisted for the interview. Going beyond traditional resume, a cover letter allows you the opportunity to highlight your strengths and key selling points. Therefore, craft it right in a good, professional tone to empower your resume, and make the interview feel it’s worth the time and energy invested to meet you in person for an interview.

Have you always been passionate in making real impact and being the agent of change? If the answer is an absolute yes, then working for a startup should be your next call. Startups are looking for talented and ardent individuals who demonstrate a strong entrepreneurial zest and great teamwork skill.

In a small office with small team members, it becomes but obvious that everyone is expected to give their best and participate actively in achieving the business goals and objectives. Do you have what it takes to secure a startup job?

One of the biggest attraction for people to work at a startup is the unconventional perks offered. If you are tired of a corporate life which is tedious mundane routine, then working for a startup could bring colours to your life with fun challenges. If you are bored of wearing formal attire, then startup will give you a total authority of deciding the casual or semi-casual look to don today.

What makes it even better is, in a startup environment you get chance to do the real work and get recognised by the team. Owing to small team size, even the slightest achievement will be highly regarded and rewarded.

On the flip side of it, you should bear in mind that not everyone is suited for a startup life. Working for startup can be best described as riding a roller-coaster. There will be ‘down times’ where you have to sacrifice your sleep for completing a tough project. However, there will be ‘up times’ as well, where you can take a break and play ping-pong with your co-workers.

While we know that startup has different working vibes as in comparison to a corporate job, it turns out that landing a job at a startup requires much alike strategies commonly used for winning any other types of job. However, there are significant differences that you should note even before shooting out to your CV to growing startups, that you aspire to work for.

Here are 7 useful tips to grab the best deal and tread career growing on fast track from fast-growing start-up:

  1.       Be passionate about the company’s vision

Every startup is established on a solid ground of passionate vision. And that explains why entrepreneurs care so much about finding individuals who share the same passion to grow the business. That being said, it becomes crucial to demonstrate the reasons why you’re passionate and interested in joining the team.

  1.       Try the products or services

You should know what the startup actually does for a living. If it is possible, you can try their products or use their services and gain valuable information about them. Not only giving you authentic experience of being real user, this strategy will help you nail the interview.

  1.       Learn about the company culture

First of all, you should bear in mind that startups adopt much different culture from big corporates. Being part of the team means that you have to adapt yourself to fit into their fast-paced working environment that undergoes a continuous change. Be prepared for surprises (both good and bad ones) and so you will be ready to join the unicorn team.

  1.       Show genuine interests

You can tell if someone is genuinely interested or not, only through their cover letter or gesture during the interview. If you want to draw employer’s attention, it is imperative that you must show you’re genuinely interested with the job and the company. Only then, can they trust you to be the new hire.

  1.       Know the industry

The truth is, most startups fail in their first year. Owing to their competitive nature of workings, you need to know what kind of battle you will face ahead. Therefore, before coming to an interview, you should learn about the industry, the startup’s position in it, as well the competitors.

Do your research well, and this will showcase you’re serious about joining (and eventually growing) the team.

  1.       Demonstrate a reliable personality

Reliability is one of the most sought-after characteristics of a startup employee. With limited resources and plentiful tasks, everyone is expected to take ownership for their work and be fully responsible for their job.

  1.       Be true to yourself

Nobody wants to hire a phoney individual. So do not pretend to be someone you’re not, just for the sake of getting hired. Be true to yourself first and this does reflect in your workings, behaviour, passion and zest for excellence to deliver great business results.

What contributes the most to your success in career and business? Is it strong educational background? Years of experience? Or great deal of money? While it is undeniable that those variables are crucial, but there’s one thing behind every successful story: The power of networking.

When it comes to business, networking is the key for efficacious practices. Be it job hunting, working on a new project, promotion, or any other professional achievements, getting to know the right people who can leverage on your skills, is more important than talent in itself.

It doesn’t matter if you have all the required qualifications for your dream job. Unless you meet someone who can ‘bridge’ you to the potential job, you will end up going nowhere in your career.

Then what does the word ‘networking’ actually mean? In general, networking is simply the way you exchange information with other people in the professional world. The truth is, you can build network with everyone, everywhere. It could be someone you just met on the subway, someone within your field of expertise, or someone outside your industry. The wider your network is, you can gain better business perspectives, expand reach and get more career opportunities along the way.

While this might sound simple, networking is always easier said than done. Due to many reasons, some people might find it difficult to build and broaden their networks. In fact, networking is not merely achieved. Rather, it is seized through real, genuine efforts. Be it formal or informal networks, every time you reach out and communicate to others, there is always a chance that they can form a part of your growing network circle.

So, how do you harness the power of networking in your next job search? Here’s how:

  1.    Change your mindset

Before taking to the streets and meeting new people, it is crucial to change your mindset and garner new approaches or views about networking. Networking is not just about how addition of new people in your networks and reaching out can help you in your next job search. Rather, it is a game of give and take.

If you want to be helped, then you should be willing to lend a helping hand, too. To make the networks work, you should be able to build upon a healthy relationship formed by trust and faith.

  1.    Develop a strategy

Every successful action always comes from a well-thought strategy. And it applies to networking as well. To help you make a concrete move, you will need to prepare a tangible strategy. Such as for example, you can schedule to attend networking events such as job fair at least two or three times in a month. Or, you can prepare yourself by sharpening your communication skills.

  1.    Prepare your weapon

While networking is not necessarily about professional relationship, you should always be ready to seize on an opportunity to meet people along your life’s journey and build on your connections. If you are on a job hunting spree, then leveraging on your connections with a well-drafted resume should help you land the job of your dreams.

  1.    Be proactive

Networking is not given. Rather, you should put efforts to gain it. Therefore, you should be proactive in your job hunting process. Internet might have everything you need without much hurdles and painstaking efforts. However, nothing beats the ingenuity of getting out and meeting the real people.

You can take advantage of social groups and professional events such as seminars, job fairs, or discussions to find networks.

  1.    Leverage on social media

In-person meetings strengthen relationships, and social media helps build and maintain it. You can leverage on social media channel to flourish professional networking. Using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter could be a great way to stay in touch with friends, colleagues, or someone you’ve just met. You never know who might turn up to you with a lucrative business deal or a job offer in store.

  1.    Stay positive

Getting rejected from companies you have always dreamt of working, might impact your morale and self-esteem. However, don’t lose out on your zest for life. Rather, stay positive and face tough times with a smile. Don’t be afraid to grab every opportunity that knocks on your door and embrace change with positivity.

Next read: Should You Say Goodbye to Rigid Career Plans and Go with the Flow?

Are you active on social media platforms? How do you manage your social media accounts? How often do you monitor your postings and home page? When was the last time you updated your information? Chances are, most fresh graduates today have at least one social media account online.

Be careful on the path to harnessing social media reach and networking with new people. Use of social media has its share of downsides as well. Social media today, is no longer merely used to connect with the world at large. If you are not vigilant enough in filtering through your social media posts, it could perhaps cost you a missed job opportunity.

Candidate’s social media ‘cleanness’ increasingly becomes one of the major consideration for employers as well. Jobvite survey notes that 92 percent employers use social media as a part of their hiring strategy.

Based on the latest Careerbuilder survey in 2016, 60 percent employers use social networking sites to research whether the candidates are professionally fit for the job role or not. Meanwhile, previous Careerbuilder survey in 2013 found 43 percent hiring managers stated that they do not hire a candidate due to the information they found on the candidate’s social media account.

As pointed out by the survey, there are several social media channels that might cost your candidacy, such as provocative or inappropriate photos (50 percent), drinking or using drugs (48 percent), and bad-mouthed previous employer (33 percent).

On the other hand, social media might improve your candidacy as well, as long as you convey a professional image (57 percent), showcase good personality (50 percent), and demonstrate a wide range of interests (50 percent). If you are a fresh graduate seeking to improve employment opportunity during the job search, you should pay attention to these social media dos and don’ts:

Dos

Google your name. Type your name on the search engine and see what it gives you. If the results give you negative pieces of content that originate from social media accounts, you should trace down the roots and fix them right away. This way, you can keep your personal brand clean and appealing.

Be consistent. Consistency is crucial for your personal brand. Your online information on social media should be in line with the ones you write in your resume. So, you have to double check if you have provided consistent name, education, work experience, and other personal information.

Clean up your profile. Make sure that your profile picture represents your professional side, especially on LinkedIn. If you intend to create a good impression for future employers, you should change your physically-flaunting pictures with more proper and casual ones. Not only your current posts, should you also take down all tactless posts from the past.

Pay attention to details. Your friends or followers might not make a big deal when you mistakenly spell ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. However, your future employer will. Therefore, make sure that you pay attention to details and avoid ambiguity in your posts.

Be social. It is social media, after all. You should make your online presence counted by joining and actively participating in groups related to your fields of expertise. Interact with people from the same network, you will gain deeper insights about the professional world and perhaps even find a new job opportunity.

DON’T

Be offensive. Refrain your emotions from publishing offensive comments or status updates on your social media accounts. When you want to get ahead in your career, it is important to keep your professionalism by circumventing such profanity.

Complain about previous employers. Not only unethical, complaining and bad-mouthing your previous employers will only leave negative impression about you.

Spread negative issues. Hoax and provocative news are easily spread over the internet. Don’t sacrifice your integrity by sharing such news on your social media accounts. Before posting and sharing sensitive issues, do research to find out the truth first.

Post inappropriate photos and videos. Think twice before you post anything online. Because once posted, you never know the effects they could bring in the future. Hence, never post questionable photos and inappropriate videos that can ruin your credibility.

Tell lies. This might be obvious, but many fresh grads fall for this mistake nonetheless. While it is important to keep your profile attractive with relevant qualification mentions, do not over exaggerate your achievements as you will only end up telling lies.

When it comes to social media, there are always two sides to the same coin. While social media can help boost your employment opportunity, if you let your guard down, then social media could impact your personal branding to affect any incoming job offers in the near and long term as well.

Next read: Top 10 User-Friendly Job Search Apps Every Jobseeker Should Possess