Having moved across the country, my previous networking achievements hold little sway. I now live in the grand city of Gainesville, FL, with a population nearing 200,000 during the school-in-session months. Beyond the gorgeous vegetation and un-abating humidity during the days and nights, I find myself in a situation where my communication skills are in greater demand than ever before.
Where previously I could walk in and show myself to anyone I needed to speak to, I am now on the outside of the adminosphere of every company in the city. My communication focus now has shifted to showing myself and my skills to others in the form of two little documents called the Resumé and the cover letter. This is a personal challenge for me because I’ve gotten used to being verbose in order to communicate what I need, so as to avoid any confusion. Now, brevity is the calling of the day. Here are a few things I’ve discovered about the job hunt that can hopefully assist an aspiring engineer:
- The cover letter should be no more than a page long. I’ve had several people read and edit my cover letter, and the last reviewer had the best advice for me. “I’ve been guilty of looking at a cover letter and saying to myself, ‘I don’t have time to read all of that.’” When you think that these managers have potentially tens to hundreds of applications to look through, brevity is preferred.
My cover letter went from 1.6ish pages to under 2/3 of a page with only three paragraphs. The first is my mission and what I want. The second is why the company would want to hire me, highlighting my skills. The third is optional (though I don’t think so) and covers some research on the company and touches on how I see the need for their company and humbly request and audience.
- Focus on the points of the job. That middle paragraph (the top can hint at some things also) is the place you have to show what you’re worth. Often, online systems perform a keyword match of the resumes and cover letters to determine what percent match a particular candidate has to the position that is open.
So, copy the text from that duties/responsibilities/skills section and ensure that you cover as many as you possibly can without simply keyword stuffing your letter. Obviously, once you pass through the virtual firewall (so to speak) a human will read it, and if you simply stuff your letter to get through the system, a person will know and likely throw it out.
- Let the resumé speak for itself. The cover letter need not include everything you’ve done. If you have proficiency in twenty programming languages, don’t list them in your cover letter. Don’t include EVERYTHING you’ve ever done, because your resume has a purpose too! Its purpose is to itemize the details of everything you find relevant to the open position. Remember, the cover letter is simply there to show your interest and give an overview of why you need to be the one chosen.
- Show some interest in your hopeful new organization. Spend some time looking at what they do and include it (maybe in that final paragraph). Not all managers expect that, nor do all appreciate it, but those that do may find it hard to hire you if you’re merely feigning interest. Doing some research shows some level of interest from you, and can push you beyond the round filing cabinet just for the small amount of effort you took.
- Don’t rely on one job website to satisfy your research. I’m on Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, Jobs.net, Craigslist, LinkedIn, and probably a few more that I don’t get emails from regularly. I can’t tell you how many jobs have been only posted on one of these sites. If you find a new one, bookmark, signup and check back frequently to see if there is a posted job that you haven’t seen before. Worst case is you get another daily email until you find the job right for you.
- Be available. Almost goes without saying, but I submitted an application online and received a callback two hours later. Be available, because if you’re not, those recruiters may not call you back a second time.
Hopefully this advice will help some of you. What are your thoughts? Any suggestions I’ve not mentioned? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!