How to Write a High-ROI, Branded Cover Letter

Writing Cover LetterIn my work as an executive resume writer, I often have the opportunity to work with leadership candidates on thoughtful cover letters and resumes, so I enjoyed talking with Leslie Stevens-Huffman of Dice.com for her insightful article, 10 Ways to Screw Up Your Cover Letter.

As she notes, your job search can stall if your cover letter fails to show your value or if you obviously haven’t taken the time to learn about the employer’s business.

Unfortunately, the job market still abounds with cover letters that look like templates – or that only rehash the resume (even at an executive level!).

So… what SHOULD you do when putting together a compelling cover letter? Try these tips for a powerful, standout document that cuts to your ROI and exemplifies your personal brand: Continue reading “How to Write a High-ROI, Branded Cover Letter”

Do You Really Need a Cover Letter For Executive Jobs?

Invariably, when executives try to figure out how to stand out in the job search, the subject of cover letters comes up – followed by confusion. Do you really need a cover letter for each executive job application? How can you be sure that employers are actually reading the letter you’re so carefully crafting?

cover letter for executives
Do you really need a cover letter for executive jobs?

Is it a myth that a cover letter can distinguish you in the executive job search? Here are 3 key points to consider when it comes to the cover letter question:

1 – Yes, cover letters are read by (some) employers.

However, this varies among different companies and their hiring practices. This informal survey from About.com shows some hiring managers are emphatic that a great cover letter will boost your chances of being selected for a choice interview. Studies in the careers industry also consistently nearly two-thirds of hiring authorities read cover letters, and of that group, nearly 50% consider them crucial.  You’ll never know at the outset which third of hiring managers you’re dealing with, of course. Therefore, it’s better to be prepared with a strong personal brand message encapsulated in a cover letter, than to lose out on a great opportunity.  Continue reading “Do You Really Need a Cover Letter For Executive Jobs?”

You Sent Out Your Resume – Now What?

Rather than taking a passive role in your job search, take proactive steps to influence your success

Sending out a resume is almost an emotional action. You’ve read the job description carefully to find a match with your skills, prepared your resume and cover letter, and then hit the Send button…

And now you’re hoping that the company will see you as a good fit and call you for an interview.

However, instead of hoping, waiting, and leaving yourself to feel dejected by a lack of response, it’s time to take action! 

These 3 post job-application steps will help you feel more in control of your search – with better results: Continue reading “You Sent Out Your Resume – Now What?”

Does Your Cover Letter Make These 5 Critical Mistakes?

Does your cover letter make these mistakes?

You’ve polished your resume to no end, especially after finding a job posting that precisely fits your skills.

But did your cover letter merit the same attention?

Many hiring managers use your cover letter to gauge your interest in the company, as well as your aptitude for the job.

Therefore, when you resort to “Dear Sir, I’m interested in your open job, here’s my resume,” you’re missing out on a critical chance to persuade employers to take you seriously.

Here are 5 of the most crucial mistakes made in cover letters—those that can quickly knock you out of the running for a leadership job: Continue reading “Does Your Cover Letter Make These 5 Critical Mistakes?”

Executive Job Hunting? You’ll Need More Than a Resume

If you’re an executive planning your next career move, it might surprise you to learn that you’ll be judged by more than just your resume during your job search.

In other words, a full resume is NOT necessarily the best fit for every job search contact.

Surprised? You’ll find that recruiters, company owners, Boards of Directors, and other hiring decision-makers often look at your experience through a series of interviews and investigations—which means that your executive resume is just one part of the process.

Here are 4 must-have documents for an executive portfolio designed to capture attention at all the right levels—along with recommendations for the timing of each component:

1 – Executive Biography.
A short, narrative-form document, the Biography often appeals to readers that are not engaged in the technical detail of a full resume.

The best readers for an Executive Biography are usually networking contacts (who are easily overwhelmed by a full resume) or Boards of Directors (who typically interview you in the later stages of the hiring process).

2 – LinkedIn Profile.
While not technically a “document” created just for job hunting, your LinkedIn Profile is a critical—and often underutilized—piece of an executive portfolio.

Most executives set up a Profile very quickly and then abandon it, becoming preoccupied with their work, which is a costly job-hunting mistake.

Your LinkedIn Profile may actually be the first piece of information encountered by a recruiter. Therefore, it must be polished, professional, and keyword-heavy (to aid others in finding you through LinkedIn’s search engine).

3 – Cover Letter.
Despite the myth that hiring authorities rarely read cover letters, some audiences (company owners, CEOs, and Presidents) might not even glance at your resume until they’ve fully digested the contents of your letter.

These groups are usually probing for leadership abilities that they feel are more evident within the letter. Investors, in particular, like to read a very short, bottom-line value proposition letter, in lieu of a resume.

In short, don’t write off a cover letter as an important document in the hiring process, as you might find that it was this part of your portfolio that influenced an interviewing decision.

4 – Full Resume.
Not a month goes by when a social media or recruiting expert poses the question, “Is the resume dead?” No, the need for a resume won’t go away soon. You’ll absolutely be asked to send your resume to many contacts at different stages of your search.

No matter who reads it, an executive resume serves as the centerpiece of your presentation, and therefore must convince employers of your brand, value proposition, and leadership standing—no small feat.

Often, the best readers of a full resume will those that thrive on analytical detail (such as operations or technology executives hiring EVP and Director-level candidates).

In summary, an executive portfolio is a must for serious job hunters ready to assume a leadership role. The days of distributing an executive resume without backup in the form of a Executive Biography, LinkedIn Profile, or Cover letter are gone.

Your job search will be smoother, faster, and more effective with a well-rounded and branded portfolio that appeals to the diverse audiences you’ll encounter.

Need a competitive edge for your executive job search?

As the #1 U.S. TORI award-winning executive resume writer, I create branded, powerful resumes and LinkedIn Profiles that position you as the #1 candidate – PLUS arm you with the job search tools that will get you hired faster.

My clients win interviews at Fortune 500 firms including Citibank, Google, Disney, and Pfizer, plus niche-market companies, start-ups, and emerging industry leaders.

Get in touch with me to experience the outstanding results my expertise can bring to your transition.

– Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CPBA, TCCS, COPNS, CIC 

Don’t Apply Just Once

Planning to apply to that hot job you just found online? Take it a step further with some competitive research that can put you first in line (but at another company).

Here’s the idea: when companies post a position, they might be hiring from within their network – looking at suppliers, competitors, vendors, and any other organizations within their sphere of influence for that perfect candidate.

If they follow through on hiring from within this group of companies, there’s now a space to be filled somewhere within this network.

Here’s your cue: jump on this scenario, and send your resume to any of these other firms BEFORE a job is posted, putting yourself first in line (before these companies realize that someone is leaving)!

Find a hiring manager (using LinkedIn or Zoominfo), then add supporting detail to your cover letter that shows your research on the industry, and your interest in their specific operation. (This letter WILL be read in detail, because you’re going to send it in hard copy, intriguing the manager enough to open it.)
Next, plan to follow up in about a week by phone or via LinkedIn.
Congratulations! You’ve just made a preemptive strike in your job search, figured out how the hidden job market works, and probably generated sufficient interest to win an interview.

5 High-ROI Resume & Cover Letter Fixes

Resume section headings matterSometimes, you have to feel for the person who is reading your resume on the other side of the hiring table.

Too often, job seekers resort to almost identical phrases on resumes and cover letters. Yet, if you want to generate serious attention, you’ll need to shake things up a bit!

Here are 5 fast, simple ways to think outside the template on your resume and cover letter:

1 – Introduce your resume with a specific, branded title.

Pursuing a global business development or marketing role—one with authority for trend watching and sales in industry verticals?

Sure, you can use Business Development Executive, but Director Strategic Sales packs more impact, plus retains the keywords (Director and Sales) that are needed at your career level.

There’s always more than one way to introduce yourself. Project Manager is fairly specific, but you can give yourself a bit more latitude with a general title such as Project Executive, with a second line that lists Portfolio Manager, Project Director, and PMO Manager as job targets.

2 – Alter your resume headings for powerful impact.

There’s no law that requires your resume to use sections such as Experience, Education, and so forth.

If you’re in sales, you can use the title Relevant Revenue Highlights to describe a selected list of sales successes, while an Operations Manager can create a section entitled Operational Productivity Improvements to show important achievements. This executive resume sample uses a section called Signature Performance Benchmarks.

Light on experience? Group your training under keywords that make sense to employers, such as Sales Education, Leadership Training, or Technology Knowledge.

A caveat: be sure to change your resume headings BACK to typical phrases if you’re submitting an online application likely to pass through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – and send the pretty one directly to hiring managers.

3 – Give recruiters something else to read besides your job titles.

Are your job titles very general, such as Associate Analyst or Senior Consultant? Help employers out (please!) by specifying exactly what you do in your career.

Get creative and add another line underneath your real title with more descriptive terms such as Project Manager, Product Development Analyst, or Business Process Reengineering Manager.

4 – Change your cover letter’s enclosure line.

Adding just “Resume” with the notation Enc. after your signature doesn’t quite cut it as a parting shot.

How about Enc: Business Development Leadership Resume or Attached: Senior Leadership Qualifications Summary instead?

5 – Try adding a P.S. to your letter.

The power of the post script (or P.S.) is well-documented. Marketing studies have proven over and over that this may be the most-read sentence of your entire cover letter.

Branch out a little and try a grand finale such as “I’ll be glad to share my ideas for bringing XYZ Company’s Western region revenue to #1 in the nation. May we talk?”

In conclusion, don’t believe everything you read about a single RIGHT way to create a resume or cover letter.

Instead, experiment by adding some flair and road-testing different ways of stating the same information – and you can easily end up with a better response.

 

Executive Resume Writer

Need a competitive edge in your job search? As an award-winning executive resume writer, I create branded, powerful resumes and LinkedIn Profiles that position you as the #1 candidate.

My clients win interviews and top C-suite, EVP, VP, and Director positions at Fortune 500 firms, niche companies, start-ups, and emerging industry leaders, using powerhouse documents and executive job search techniques tailored to today’s job market.

Get in touch with me to experience the outstanding results I can bring to your transition.

– Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CPBA, TCCS, COPNS, CIC, CTTCC