Category Archives: Resumes & Cover Letters

Thanks, Coach!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

No matter how many years it’s been since you walked with gown and mortarboard to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, I’ll bet you can still name your high school gym or sports coach – right?

Whether you played sports, marched in the band or took Tae Kwon Do at the neighborhood “Y”, we’ve all had important mentors along the way.

Most of us also had the experience of working with our high school or college career development department or counselors. These were useful free services with helpful people who assisted students with understanding how their class selection, skills and scholastic achievement fit into the job market and could shape their future careers.

But what does one do when graduation is in the rear view mirror, or your camp days are long gone, and you’re in need of help with your current job search?

Some people turn to professional career coaches; people who – for a fee – offer personalized advice on how to land the best potential new job. Most job seekers are aware of these services, and they can be very helpful for some people, but is paying a fee REALLY a practical decision for most? Probably not. What many people do not realize is that there is another form of career coaching available that is not only free, but can also lead to you finding your dream job – using a recruiting and staffing firm!

Let’s take a look at why:

Comprehensive Information: There is a common misconception that the consultants who work at recruiting and staffing agencies operate just like HR professionals – focused on filling a specific opening with a specific candidate – but this is incorrect!

Although you may have initially applied for a specific opening with a staffing agency, the consultants working for that agency will look at your education, skills and experience in relation to ALL the positions (and companies) they handle, and ultimately present you with the best fit(s). Plus, they often consider contacting non-clients to discuss potential openings for you that may not yet exist! Like a “talent agent”, your consultant will “shop” your resume around to potential employers to see if an opening can be created or may soon become available.  Working with a recruiting and staffing firm can open hundreds, if not thousands, of doors to openings and opportunities that you may not have access to through any other medium.

Additionally, based on their many years of experience placing people with a variety of backgrounds within numerous types of jobs for countless types of companies and organizations, you can receive comprehensive feedback on your career potential and salary expectations.

Real-Time View of the Local Economy: Consultants at recruiting and staffing agencies have their finger on the pulse of their local job market in an unparalleled way. That’s because everyday they are in communication with the companies in their region about various types of openings. When there are changes in local hiring trends, staffing agencies will be aware of these changes before any economist and certainly before the general public. This ‘real-time’ information becomes invaluable intelligence that can be the difference between you being ahead of or behind the hiring trends in your area.

Resume and Pre-Interview Assistance: Recruiting and staffing consultants will look at your resume and in short time make immediate corrections and/or suggestions for its improvement, which will increase your results in securing interviews.

Also, based on your personal interview, they will make observations regarding your personality type, strengths, weaknesses, areas for learning, potential for growth and help you to “connect the dots” with types of positions, companies or industries that you may not have considered previously – or have even known about.

How strong are your skills and experience? In addition to testing your relevant computer software knowledge and skills, your consultant can offer free tutorials to boost any gap in your proficiency or suggest learning others to boost your marketability. Plus, your consultant will perform various verifications, reference and background checks (all of which should be free of charge to you) to be certain that your background WILL check out as you expect, and if discrepancies are uncovered, help you address them NOW – rather than when its too late.

Additionally, once an interview has been scheduled, your consultant will also offer valuable interview advice and insight into the firm or firms you will meet with! For example, one of our clients LOVES the Cubs – so you’ll know NOT to blurt out how being a Sox fan has improved your work habits!

Fees – It’s FREE: Recruiting and staffing agencies in the Chicago metropolitan area do not charge the job seeker! Chicago is an “EPF market”, or Employer Paid Fee market. Agencies are paid if – and only if – you are hired and providing you stay a certain length of time. In JobGiraffe’s case, this is typically no less than 90 days, but usually more like one year. This fact is not only kinder to your wallet than using a paid career consultant, but helps to assure you that the staffing agency will always work hard to make the best match possible between you, the job seeker, and the company who needs you, otherwise we don’t get paid. And, if you are working with an agency in Chicago, and they are charging you a fee – run!

We’re Your Biggest Fan: When you work with a consultant, not only will you have a liaison between you and the hiring company, you’ll have your own cheering section! Your consultant will always be in your corner rooting for you and will be your best advocate. In fact, oftentimes your consultant may have the ability to ‘tip’ things in your favor if the hiring company must decide between you and someone else.

Also, in addition to providing you “your own cheering section” as you score your next job, your consultant can also be the source of invaluable feedback if you never seem to make it to the “second round” or always seem to always come in “2nd Place”. Sometimes you may be doing something wrong on your interviews, and not even realize it!

This unique “third party professional” can make a difference in every aspect of your job search. Read the profiles of the JobGiraffe staff. A common theme, profile after profile, mentions how gratified they are to help make a difference in the lives of job seekers – and that’s not just true for the JobGiraffe staff – because I do believe it is the common thread shared by consultants across this industry.

So once you land the job you’ve been looking for through a recruiting or staffing firm, don’t forget to say “Thanks Coach”…

Reach Higher!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com. 

Cover Letters Are Still Alive – and Thriving!

JobGiraffe, Karen Rae Horwitz, employment, job seeking, hiring, recruitment, staffing
Karen Rae Horwitz

by Karen Rae Horwitz, President, JobGiraffe

It may seem to job seekers that cover letters are not as important as they once were, as we’ve all heard about how little time most hiring managers spend reading a resume or that a computer may actually scan your resume before human eyes ever do.

True or not, this does not mean you shouldn’t include a cover letter when applying for a job!  Although your resume may be the only item reviewed during a company’s first round of selecting candidates for interviews, for the second round or beyond, you can be certain every piece of your submission will be carefully examined, and your excellent cover letter may give you a ‘leg up’ against the competition!

But what makes a good cover letter in today’s world? I’d like to give you seven simple steps to create the best personal/professional introduction (a.k.a. cover letter) you can submit.

1. Writing in the ‘first person’ and ‘present tense’ is the way to go:  Within resumes, most candidates correctly refer to themselves in the third person and avoid using ‘I’ to create a more professional representation of their work history, but you should not do the same in your cover letter.  You can speak to the reader in a more “normal” manner and tone, referring to yourself as “I” and discussing your past and your present in a manner that’s easy to read and understand, and will allow the reader an opportunity to sense your personality.

2. Keep your formatting simple and consistent: The header on your resume (that part at the top which contains your contact information) and your cover letter should be identical. You should use the same font and approximate size for the text in both, and in general make the two documents look as though they belong together.  This simple organizational tactic reflects well upon you and will help you be remembered by the reader. Plus, should your resume and cover letter be accidentally separated, it will be very simple for them to be brought back together.

3. Don’t make your cover letter too lengthy or word-dense: Not only should your cover letter never be longer than one page, it should not look like a law school text. Asking a hiring manager to read a lengthy document about why you’re the right candidate for the job may be asking too much. Make sure there is a balance between the white background of the document and the black text.  This will encourage the reader to engage in what you’ve written as opposed to just scanning it. Taking the reader’s time into consideration will go a long way.

4. Directly address the job you’re applying for and why you’re a fit for that job: Your resume submission should always keep the job you are applying for in mind and you should adjust certain information within the resume appropriately, but it should still read as an objective overview of your professional history. Yet, within your cover letter, it is totally appropriate to specifically address the job you are applying to – and stress why you’re a good fit for it!  Share important highlights of your education, background and/or skills that are the most relevant to the position. If you know who the hiring manager is, or which department they’re within, you should be addressing them personally or by department.  If not, “Hiring Manager” is acceptable.

If you are not willing to take the time to create a personalized and customized cover letter for each resume submission you make, then it is probably best NOT to use a cover letter.

5. Don’t make your cover letter a “mini resume”: The information or professional highlights that are within your resume should not be repeated verbatim in your cover letter. Your cover letter should be seen as a tool to either intrigue the reader into wanting to carefully examine your resume or, if it is being read after your first interview, to reinforce why you are a good fit for the position. Also, keep in mind that your cover letter is a great way to reference positive information about yourself that wouldn’t seem appropriate – or that wouldn’t fit – within your resume.

6. Highlight your main selling points: While your cover letter should read more like prose than a resume, it’s also always best to add a couple of bulleted or highlighted remarks within the cover letter. This will help to visually break up the letter and make it not only easier to read but will also make sure you get across a couple of your best selling attributes should the reader be in a rush.

This could be done by simple bullet points in the middle of the cover letter…

  • With five years of successful outside sales experience, I’ve developed strong interpersonal skills and the ability to connect with people in all levels of an organization.
  • With advanced proficiency in MS Office and experience with Oracle ERP systems and Salesforce CRM software, I have the computer skills necessary for this position

Or, it could even be done by addressing some of the specific needs listed by the company in their job description.

Your ad specifies: Strong interpersonal skills

I offer: Five years of successful outside sales experience that required working with people in all levels of an organization.

Your ad specifies: The need for strong computer skills

I offer: Advanced proficiency in MS Office, experience with Oracle ERP systems and in-depth knowledge of Salesforce CRM software.

7. A strong ending: Emphasize your interest in the position and, although it may seem obvious, always be sure to thank the reader for their consideration in a positive and professional tone. And be sure to sign the cover letter if it’s being delivered by mail or in person, and if sent via email, consider adding an image of your signature. This adds a personal touch and is sure to make you ‘stand out above the crowd’.

Now ‘Reach Higher” and get that job!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com.