There are times when your best job search networking strategies just don’t pan out and you are left in limbo. Even if you are the perfect candidate for a position–and have networked to find an internal champion–sometimes you won’t hear from an employer at all. “Did they get my resume?” you may wonder. “Are they going to call me?” When employers do not contact you after you have turned in your resume, it may be as simple as resume overload.
Hundreds of resumes; one position
I recently wrote to an in house recruiter I know who works for a biotech firm. I wanted to find out who to send my client’s resume to for a particular position. Understandably, this recruiter could not give out her colleague’s information; however, she was kind enough to pass the resume along to that person, with a heavy caveat. She warned me (and I could hear her overwhelm ringing throughout cyberland) that they had received over 380 resumes for that position! From my work in career transition during this recent recession, I know this is not an anomaly. From a job seeker’s perspective, however, it is daunting and surreal.
Even though you may be aware of the enormous volume of resumes employers have been receiving, it is still hard to be in the thick of wondering if they saw yours. And of course, not hearing back (which happens frequently) you might fear the worst:
“I must have done something wrong/left something out/misunderstood the submission process.”
“My internal contact must not have told the hiring manager all of the reasons I am such a good fit or I would have heard something by now.”
Enter the Cover Letter
Believe it or not, a well written cover letter can be pivotal in getting your resume moved from the “pile of hundreds” to the short stack for a second look. Of course, “short” is a relative term when there are 380 resumes! However, the short stack is better than the toss stack. There are some situations where you won’t be able to include a cover letter (i.e., in certain online application systems). However, whenever you can, I strongly recommend that you do.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about cover letters with job seekers during this recent recession. Some people send one each time they apply for a position. Others maintain a fervent stand against them, convinced that they are a waste of time. I’m guessing some of you feel the same way–that they are not worth writing. After all, who reads them anyway? While many hiring managers don’t read cover letters, some do, including me when I’ve been in that role. In fact, many use them during the screening process to help them decide which resumes to keep for a closer look.
If you write one, make it count.
If you send a cover letter, make it count by writing it well. I am fortunate to know an expert on the topic of cover letters. Her name is Lynda McDaniel, Founder and Director of the Association for Creative Business Writing. www.afcbw.com. In her work with corporations and private clients, she often consults on this subject. She and I agree that how a cover letter is written matters. Creativity is the key to making your letter stand out, enhancing the chance that the employer will pay more attention to your resume. I recently contacted Lynda for some specific ideas about cover letters. Here is what she had to say:
“I like to see personality come through in cover letters. “I am applying for XYZ job” sounds like everyone else. Set yourself apart with a story from your career. You’re not only sharing an accomplishment, you’re showing that you’re a creative thinker.
Jennifer Dupper, a recruiter for Starbucks, agrees. “When I come across interesting cover letters, I’m not only excited to view the resumes,” she says. “I’m also more likely to contact the candidates—even when their experience may be lacking some of the necessary requirements of the position they’re seeking.”
Here’s an example of a cover letter that helped the applicant get an interview—and the job!
I believe the best way to convey my qualifications for the XYZ director position is through an example from my tenure as executive director of ABC Imports. Last April, I was having lunch with a manager I’ve always enjoyed working with. So, I was surprised when he suddenly grew angry. He told me he resented the way headquarters was telling him how to run his division. I took a deep breath and reminded myself this man was frustrated, maybe even a little scared. He needed our help, even though he couldn’t admit it to himself. We talked and made some changes. Today, that situation has changed dramatically, and this manager is back on track…
You’ve done some great things during your career, too. Share them in a cover letter and get that job you’ve always wanted.”
Given how hard you are working to network for a new position, I hope I have won you over to the merits of writing and sending a creative cover letter along with your resume. You have no control over whether or not it gets read, but you have no chance of it being read if you don’t send one!