Ask The Work Buzz! How Do I Land an Interview?

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askJim writes: What do I need to do to just get an interview at this point? I have been out of work since November 2008 and have not even had an interview due to me experience level or possible age. Please Help! See below…

To whom it may concern,

I am a degreed Engineer with 20+ years of Product Support and Sales Management experience in the aerospace industry. I hold a vast base of personal contacts including Airlines, OEM’s, Repair Centers as well as Part and Component Centers. I have traveled extensively over the past 18 years and I am familiar with all aspects of the Aerospace industry, business world and trade show world. I am seeking a position with a motivational company that will allow me the freedom to assist in growing and expanding their customer base in Customer Support and Sales.

As I have enjoyed my career in Aerospace, I would also welcome a new change for the future. I am open to new ideas and new direction. Although I have many years of experience, I would welcome the opportunity to utilize my experience in a new industry or a new field that would simplify my career and settle into a whole new outlook. I am not afraid of change, learning new tasks or hard work and I would welcome any company at any level to challenge me and take me in an entirely new and different direction.

Sincerely,
James J. Longo

Hi Jim,
You seem to have a lot of impressive experience and credentials and I think you are on the right track. There are a few things you might want to tweak with your cover letter.

First, this reads very generic. What I tell job seekers is to find a hook – something that creates a personal tie between you and the employer – in every job you apply to and include it in the cover letter. Mention an article you just read that highlighted the company or quoted one of the company’s executives; tie in your expertise with a project the company has worked on; or reach out to your network to see if you know anyone who is currently employed and ask if you might reference them.  

Second, I would include bullets for easier readability. This will make your credentials jump off the page to a hiring manager who’s scanning your cover letter.

Third, instead of writing, “I am seeking a position with a motivational company that will allow me the freedom to assist in growing and expanding their customer base in Customer Support and Sales,” be specific about the position you are applying to and summarize briefly why you are the best candidate for that role.

Finally, shorten the cover letter. You probably don’t even need the second paragraph but instead just a closing sentence. If you are looking to bridge your expertise into a new industry, that should come in the first or second sentence but only if the position calls for that.

Keep tweaking your cover letter (and possibly your resume) until you find the right “formula” for you. If you take an extra half hour to customize your cover letter every time you apply to a job, it could make all the difference. Good luck in your search.

4 Comments
  1. Great tips, Kate!

    Also, it might not be Jim’s cover letter that is the real issue here — it might also be the resume — combined with a lack of focus on what kind of job he really wants (he mentions aerospace but then also an interest in a career change).

    As you advised, cover letters need to be specifically targeted to the position/company being pursued. It’s fine to develop a general “template,” but then that must be finely tuned to meet the specific responsibilities and challenges of the position being targeted. If it’s a position in Sales Management in Aerospace, then that should be highlighted specifically — no mention of a career change.

    To go a bit further than your comment about finding a “hook” in the cover letter, both the resume and cover letter need to quantify specific accomplishments that Jim has produced in his 20 years of experience (and most definitely in his most recent position) … identifying how he specifically helped his last employer make money, save money, solve a specific problem, keep a customer, get new customers, etc.

    In addition, remember that cover letters are “employer-centric,” not “you-centric.” There’s an awful lot of “I” statements in Jim’s cover letter — and it’s nice that he wants to “simplify” his career, but the employer could probably care less about that. Instead, quantify the value that you have to offer to the EMPLOYER, not what YOU hope to get out of the job.

    In addition, you’ve got to get the resume and cover letter to the right person at the company. Go beyond applying online and research the company (look at their website, Google them, check out their recent press releases). Find specific individuals at targeted companies to contact. Use LInkedIn to identify executives at the company … and then use those contacts to help identify what their specific needs are — for both positions they’re advertising, and the jobs that they’re going to need to develop and fill, to meet future growth. (That is especially important since Jim has a background in product support.)

    When you’re not getting interviews, it might not be your age or “overabundance” of experience. It might be that you need a professional to help you with taking an objective look at your resume and cover letter … and learning how to network your way to your next job.

    You can find professional resume writers who would be willing to provide a free review of your resume through the various professional associations:
    Career Directors International (www.careerdirectors.com)
    National Resume Writers Association (www.nrwa.com)
    Professional Association of Resume Writers (www.parw.com)
    Career Management Alliance (www.careermanagementalliance.com)

    Bridget (Weide) Brooks, CPRW
    Editor, Resume Writers’ Digest

  2. Before you even lift the pencil, type on the keyboard and write your cover letter, research the company you are targeting first. Check out their facts and figures and within the body of your cover letter, talk about how you can contribute. It shows them that you’ve taken an interest and you’re not sending them a generic cover letter based on yourself only. And most importantly, be persistent. Check back with them periodically, and even if you don’t fit the position, ask for an informational interview. Then they can get to know you and see what else they can offer.

  3. One big mistake you’re making on the cover letter, Jim: “To whom it may concern.”

    In a day and age where company info is no longer under lock and key but is out there on the Web, you’ve got to find a name and direct that letter to that person.

    If you call the company’s HR department, they can, in most cases, tell you the name of the hiring manager. If nothing else, get the name of the head of HR or an appropriate HR contact, and address your letter to them.

  4. Pingback: PrimeCB » Ask The Work Buzz! Full-time mom returning to work

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