Resume Help/Cover Letter Tips
Hi Dr. Converse,
I havenít had a lot of success getting interviews and Iím not sure what the problem is. I have applied to maybe 100 different companies but I am getting very little response. Some of my friends have said that maybe my resume or cover letter might be a problem, but how do I tell? Also, I have heard that a lot of places donít even read cover letters any more. What do you think?
Good questions! Let me take the last one first. There are, indeed, some employers who do not want cover letters (sometimes called "letters of interest") and, unfortunately, some who ask for them don't read them. But I am definitely in the category of individuals who believe in them and I work very hard for my clients to be sure they produce the very best one of which they are capable. Allow me to give you a bit of background for this and tell you why I think they are so important.
Prior to writing my two books on the subject of job searching, I did a lot of research. Specifically, I interviewed a lot of employers in the U.S. and Canada. I interviewed people in all kinds of fields of work and in all sizes of institutions. Among the questions I asked them were those that dealt with cover letters. Some told me they don't require them, some said they ask for them but that they don't carry a lot of weight, but most told me that they still use them. The reasons are simple and two-fold: they wanted to give the applicant more of an opportunity to define their qualifications than is possible (or desirable) in a resume AND they wanted to see if the person was capable of communication clearly via the written word. You might think in this era of tweets and texts that written communication would not matter for much in the job world. But if you think that, you'd be wrong. As a matter of fact, nearly all the employers I talked to told me that an employee who can communicate clearly is generally more successful and is more highly valued than one whose writing skills are suspect. This skill is so important, as a matter of fact, that some employers today require you to submit some kind of written essay to evaluate your writing skills. In such exercises, what you write is a lot less important (generally speaking) than how you write it.
The bottom line here is that if the employer asks for a cover letter, give it to them ... and take some time to be sure it is well done.
As to your first question of how do you know why your response rate from employers is not very high, that could - as your friends surmise - be because something about your application is not very good. And that "something" could very well be the resume or cover letter. In the forty-plus years I have been doing this, I have applied for a fair number of jobs (and made a fair number of mistakes) and I have reviewed thousands of job applications. Sadly, I can reliably report to you that fewer than two-percent of those apps were professionally done and error-free. Sometimes the mistakes were small (but significant). Other times I wondered if the person did the application while sleep walking.
You must do everything humanly possible to be certain that what you submit is as near to perfect as you can make it ... in every way. If you make it really outstanding, you'll be in the 2%. If you don't, you'll be in the 98% and likely won't hear a word from the employer. So, yes, your app package probably has difficulties. But how do you know for sure? The easiest way is to send it to me at the email address below. My company does these sorts of things every day for people from all over the world. Because we have met on AllExperts, I will be happy to review your documents free of charge and give you my take on them. Attach them to an email and put "Resume" in the subject line.
I hope this helps; I look forward to getting your documents so we can get you in the right job!