Successful job hunting is often about basic blocking and tackling - fundamental steps that job seekers sometimes forget to implement. Don’t let these three easy-to-do job search actions derail your chances at landing that new position. I still run into people who unfortunately miss the boat on some (or all) of these, and employers share with me that these stumbles are more common that they’d like. Here goes:
Write a cover letter. When applying for a job via e-mail, it’s incredulous to me that job seekers write not one word but send merely their resume as a lonely attachment. No note, no greeting, nothing. It’s about as professional as tying your resume around a rock and throwing it into the lobby. This "I can't be bothered" approach is a great way to never get a phone call.
A local marketing executive shared with me that she was astonished at how many applications she received for a recent job posting with no note, no cover letter, no info whatsoever – just a bare attachment. Of nearly two dozen applicants, seven of them sent the absolute bare minimum: a resume and not one sentence of explanation or greeting. Not even a "good morning, attached is my resume for consideration." Is this the sign of someone who is to be entrusted with critical customer and stakeholder relationships? Is this a candidate who will go the extra mile to impress a client? “No” is the answer to both of them, and “no” was the response from this hiring manager that I know. Writing a brief cover letter when applying via e-mail will always help set you apart from the lazy loafers who can't be bothered, so use that to your advantage.
Have a business sounding e-mail. I see hundreds of job seeker resumes and LinkedIn profiles with e-mails. Friends, referencing your husband, kids, mom status and pets (lablover, judyandsam, FelberFoursome, hockeymom3) are delightful for your personal use – but business professionals know that a "proper name" e-mail is what HR and hiring managers want to see, and it’s always more sophisticated and polished for a job hunt. A proper name e-mail says "I'm all about business," which is the message you want to send.
The same goes for any email with cute, boy or girl in it (beachwoodboy, artsygirl, darncute, dancediva). These diminish your professionalism, and have to be retired for job search purposes – the message becomes “I’m kid stuff and please don’t think I’m serious and grown up” instead of “I’m a strong candidate who will move the needle for you.”
Finally, an edgy or in-your-face email (gothchick, metalfan, beerman) sends the truly wrong message about the image you’ll present in the office. Create an alternate e-mail with a variation of your first and last name for your job search, and save the fun (or funky) e-mail for your personal use.
Hand write your thank you notes – no excuses. Taking the easy way out is not a great approach here, friends. I am old school, and I firmly believe that everyone can take a few minutes to jot a hand-written thank you note. E-mail thank yous are a no-no in my book. Think about it - if you won't go the extra mile, for your one shot at landing a job, what does that say about how you'll approach customers and prospects? This tells an employer that to you, shortcuts are acceptable and that clients aren’t worth the extra effort.
Besides, you will ALWAYS set yourself apart from other candidates by sending a hand-written note to Every Single Person you interviewed with. Who wouldn’t want to stand out after a round of interviews? Folks, they give you a business card during the interviews for a reason – they’re wondering what you’ll do with it.
Even when I've had a phone screen interview by the HR department, I've tracked down where that person works and written them a note. In setting up a time for a phone call, you have their full name, often their e-mail, their phone number and you can ask where they are located, which is enough information to generate a postal address.
You can find businesslike notecards at bookstores, greeting card stores, and museum shops. Heck, even Target has good-quality plain notecards for your use. No flowers or polka dots, nothing cute that you would use for personal notes to friends. A white, cream or very muted paper color, plain or with a border, embossed with a raised pattern or smooth, sends the right business message. Monogrammed notecards look nice as well.
These three simple tips can help you stand apart from the competition when you're applying for a job, and then after you've landed a first interview.
Kelly Blazek shares job search and work success tips from the corporate front lines in her blog, http://kellyblazek.wordpress.com. She is available for presentations to groups on job searching techniques, and also one-on-one resume review consultations for job seekers - kblazek at nls dot net.