How To Start Your Cover Letter With a BANG!
Cover Letter Tips
What's the best way to get hired, even in this economy? Prove you're the best one for the position. And a great way to do that is to start working - even before you're hired. Let me explain with three mini-case studies that won jobs.
1) Start work BEFORE the interview"Six candidates were interviewing for a sales position in Atlanta with an exclusive company that had just received about $83 million in funding," says Ron McManmon, a former recruiter and Executive VP of Careeradex.com. Five candidates were "top gun" sales people who all came from industry leaders - and then there was Tony. He was young, with about five years of experience. But Tony was highly motivated and willing to go the extra mile. In his job interview, Tony not only mapped his accomplishments out on a PowerPoint presentation, he also demonstrated that he had already started working for the company. He did this by researching, assembling, and bringing with him a list of sales leads and contacts. His presentation consisted of past, present AND future. The other candidates did nothing like this. Did it work? "Tony was hired over five more-experienced candidates," says McManmon.
2) Start work BEFORE the interview - Part 2This example is near and dear to my heart - it's how I landed a job with a marketing communications firm back in the 1990s, when I worked for other people. After mailing in my resume, I was called by a receptionist to schedule an interview. During our conversation, I asked if she could send me back issues of their corporate publications. I explained that I wanted to research the writing styles of the magazines and newsletters I would be editing if I got the job. She immediately agreed, and had a nice package of materials couriered over to me the same day. It turned out to be a gold mine. I found three typos in one back issue of a magazine I would be proofreading in the position I was interviewing for. Here was proof I could do the job. Two days later at the interview, the subject of proofreading skills came up. I pulled out the magazine (with post-it notes marking the typos) and said: "I've been researching your publications and found these three errors. I can improve your image by preventing this kind of thing from happening again." They hired me.
3) Start work AFTER the interviewThis lesson in perseverance is a variation on the first story, about the candidate who brought a list of sales leads to his job interview. "Robin, a woman from Los Angeles, had been interviewing with the same company for three months. She felt she was a perfect for the position, but the hiring manager was not responsive -- he wouldn't tell her yes or no about a decision to hire her," says Ron McManmon. So Robin called McManmon to discuss her dilemma. His advice? "I suggested that she REALLY demonstrate her skills to the hiring manager. I encouraged her to call 100 potential customers and ask them, 'Would you be interested in looking at a technology that would solve your problem with X and save you XX amount of dollars??? says McManmon. The next day, Robin walked into the manager's office, put her contact list on his desk and said, "I've already started working for you. In fact, I have 100 customers who are interested in your technology." What happened next? "Robin was hired on the spot," says McManmon.
Final thoughtsYour lesson: these three examples illustrate a common point. Do whatever you can to research your target company and "start working" for them before you're hired. It's one thing to claim you can do the job. It's quite another -- and much more powerful -- to prove it. Now, go out and create your own luck! Related: How a Career Coach Could Help Your Job Search - Or Could They?
Before you write blog posts for the masses, before you apply for those positions, before you even set up your LinkedIn profile there is one thing you should do – craft your very own personal brand statement. Your bio, elevator pitch and any other descriptive text about you will invariably start out with your personal brand statement.
What is a personal brand statement?Your statement is 1-2 sentences answering what you are the best at (value), who you serve (audience) and how you do it uniquely (USP). It sums up your unique promise of value. Your personal brand statement is distinctive to you and you alone. You could liken it with a tagline, strapline or even a catchphrase that product brands will have. The personal brand statement is not a job title. A job title is what others will try to classify you with, what employers and others want you to be to fit you into a corporate setting. You deserve better than that. It's also not your personal mission statement, career objectives or even life purpose. These are much more long-term concepts intended to guide you through life and not aimed at marketing you to anybody. A personal brand statement is memorable, punchy and solution oriented. As opposed to simply saying “John is a boiler man”, why not “John keeps families warm through bespoke heating installations”? To be continued...
Why do you need a personal brand statement?How many times have you been asked what you do? Do you feel like people really understand what you do or is it merely pleasantries? I bet you can tweak what you say and leave a lasting impression with that person, an impression that might just lead to business one day. Just being another hairdresser or plumber is not going to allow you to stand out. When you don't stand out, you will have to compete against everyone else on price which isn't a great situation to be in. To be successful in today’s economy you have to specialize; you have to choose a topic and master it. Your statement will clarify exactly what you do, how you do it and for whom. By communicating this, you and your target audience will know exactly what you are capable of.
How do you write a personal brand statement?Start with listing your key career or business attributes on a piece of paper. Once the list is complete, take a good look at it and pick out the ones that make you unique. These will form your unique selling points, or USPs. Look at your unique values and key attributes and you should be able to develop a 1-2 sentence brand statement, answering these three questions: • What value you provide (what problem do you solve) • How you do it uniquely (your USPs) • Whom you do it for (your target audience) Remember to be clear on the value, don't confuse anyone with any fluffy terms that don't mean anything. Furthermore, what makes you unique in one place may not be unique in another, e.g. big cities will have lots of specialists and experts in certain fields, small towns only one and that makes him or her unique to that location.
Target your audienceWhom are you aiming your services at? A particular industry, geography, age demographic? Try to stay somewhat focused on a sector of the market and don’t spread yourself too thin. The reason personal branding has become critical for business and career success is that nobody wants to buy from the person that does everything for everyone. Look at what target audience would benefit the most from your services and zero in on this.
Stay authenticWhen writing a personal brand statement it’s easy to get carried away and putting down what you’d like to be one day. The old “fake it until you make it” approach does carry some merit but don’t overdo it. Never call yourself a guru, ninja, samurai, expert or even thought leader unless you truly are one. Only your audience can determine whether you are an expert and you will know if that is the case. The aim of your statement is to inform and inspire the reader, not to scare them off with fancy titles.
Make it punchy and memorableUsing technical or big words could alienate your target audience. You want a seven year-old to understand and be able to repeat what you do. Whenever you introduce yourself at a networking event, stay punchy and memorable. Ideally you will want that person you were talking with to tell other prospective customers what you do – this will cover a lot of ground, trust me.
Keep it reasonably shortLess is more as they say. Your ability to describe exactly what you do in one sentence says a lot about your introspection and professional focus. In some cases you have to take up two sentence but always aim for one. I will give you a special dispensation to write more if you have done more things in your life than Tim Ferriss.
It ain’t cast in ironYou will soon find that you are going to tinker with your statement after it’s written up. It’s easy to change it but just don’t get carried away and change it every week. On the flipside, some people will never look at it again. Even though it’s time consuming, your personal brand statement should be revised at least once a year to reflect changes and advancements in your professional career. In order to be effective, it needs to stay current.
Example brand statementBack to our Scottish boiler man, here's an idea for a statement: “John keeps families in Edinburgh (target audience) warm (value) through bespoke heating installations using only the most advanced German boilers (unique)”. This clearly tells you what John does, for whom and gives you an insight into how. I would say the statement is memorable, I for one think of a family keeping warm and snug over Christmas all thanks to the fantastic boiler man John.
Call to actionFinally it's your turn to start looking at your statement. Don’t put this off, you’ll find that it’s a wonderful marketing tool that you are going to use over and over. Most people haven’t really thought about their statements so you will stand out with an effective one. Over time I would think personal brand statements will be part and parcel of any successful career or business. Do you have a personal brand statement? What is it? Be sure to check out The Seven Rules to Effective Personal Brand Statements as well.
Many people come to me for help when they freeze up in interview, which they attribute to panic and nerves. That’s true. Your nerves can make you freeze up under the spotlight of an interview. What you may not know however, is that your nerves will make you do other strange things. So if you’ve ever had an interview that you thought went wonderfully well, only to receive a knock back a week or so later, read on. Many recruiters see the way you handle yourself in interview, as an indication of what you will be like under pressure in real life. That is, you give at your weakest points. Here are a few examples to show you what I mean: