Are Cover Letters really needed in the digital age?

computer and emailsEven though online job applications are now the norm, cover letters are still widely used in the recruitment process. It could be argued that cover letters are more important in the digital age as many candidates are job searching across countries and industries where they are not established. New careers are being created so hirers will be looking for candidates who can clearly demonstrate their aptitude for the role and also why they want the role with some sincerity.

You cannot guarantee that every cover letter will be read thoroughly but many recruiters like to see a cover letter in an application as it shows that the candidate has really thought about why they are a suitable candidate for the role and they have considered why they want to work for your organisation. The secret is to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the hirer. What will make them interested to read your cover letter? The answer is usually some evidence that the candidate understands the role and can explain why they want the role with some authenticity.

A good example of this is from one of my clients who submitted a rushed and blandly written cover letter for an organisation she was very keen to join. She was not shortlisted for that role. After a few months there was another role and I encouraged her to reapply, but this time, write a cover letter that is authentic and accurate. My client wrote a really completing argument on why she wanted the role and why she was a great fit too. Not only she got the interview, she got the job and is still working for the organisation five years later!

The simple rule to follow is that if the hirer asks for a cover letter in your application, then write one! If you do not include a cover letter, you may not be shortlisted for the role.

Even though the cover letter is for the hirer’s purpose, writing a cover letter has many benefits for the candidate, for any level of seniority.

Here are five reasons why we recommend that you write a cover letter for every job application and how the process can be highly beneficial to you:

  1. Check that you are a credible candidate for the role. The primary purpose of a cover letter is for the candidate to describe in their own words how they are a good match for a specific role. i.e. do they have the skills, experience and qualifications needed for this role. Have you checked that you have at least 80% of the requirements listed in the essential criteria? If not, you are probably wasting your time applying for the wrong  roles.
  2. Identifies why you want the role. The process of writing the cover letter will help you to assess why you want the role and why you want to work for that particular organisation. Your enthusiasm for the opportunity can come across in the way you write your cover letter. The hirer will be ‘reading between the lines’ to get an impression of your personality and interest in the role. Focus on writing your cover letter with some enthusiasm and honesty. Tell the reader why you are suitable for the role and why you want it in your own words!
  3. It helps you to be objective at a stressful time. It is widely recognised that job searching can very emotionally challenging. Are you showing your desperation to change jobs or focussing on tangible reasons why you want the role? Many candidates waste time on rushed application and wonder why they get a high number of rejections. One explanation for feeling a fraud or not wanting to talk about yourself is the psychological concept of Imposter Syndrome. It is common in high achievers, perfectionists or simply people with a fear of failure. You might like to take this short quiz to see how Imposter Syndrome may be holding you back from writing about yourself. Having a strategic approach to your job search will include writing a cover letter based on your analysis of your fit for the role, including evidence such as achievement stories. Writing a cover letter can help you to manage the emotions of the job search and assist you to objectively evaluate a role.
  4. Keeping your application consistent to your interview. The process of writing a cover letter will also help you to prepare for interviews and help you to form your answers that are consistent to the rest of your job application. For example, ‘Why are you the best candidate for the role?’ ‘Why do you want the role? Preparing and practicing answering these questions before applying for the role will also ensure that you are applying for a role that excites you, and why you want to do that particular job.
  5. Marketing your Personal Brand and skills. Cover letters provide an example of your writing skills and need to be consistent and authentic to your personal brand as displayed in your resume and online profiles. The ability to analysis the requirements for the role and summarise your suitability in a one page, focussed letter will convince the recruiter that it is worth reading your resume. Writing in your own voice will be more compelling to read too.

In summary, the need for a cover letter is alive and well. The process of writing a cover letter will help you to focus on why you are the best candidate for the role and why you want it.  It will save you time by identifying the roles not to apply for! Instead of thinking if a cover letter as a chore, use it as a tool to differentiate yourself in a sea of lacklustre candidates.

Contact us for more information on our coaching programs to help you write your most effective cover letter. Here’s a link to our webpage on career coaching for professionals and executives.

#coverletters #jobsearch #jobapplications #writingskills #executivecoaching

 

Are Your Job Applications In The ‘Yes’ Pile?

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

So often a new client comes to us because they have made a multitude of job applications and have become very frustrated about their lack of success. Some blame the recruitment system (rightly so, as there are many flaws), others dislike recruiters and often they just simply lose confidence in themselves and their ability to successfully job search. Therefore, they turn to a career coach as a last resort, in search of expert help.

Job searching is a challenging process for the best candidates, particularly with online job sites and complex recruitment process. It is time consuming and often you are writing an application for a very vague job ad. Without knowing ‘how to play the job search game’ you can dwindle away hundreds of hours and find yourself not even getting through to the interview stage.  In this article we will explain some of the rules of the game and ways to increase your ‘Yes’ pile odds.

Some myths about online job applications …

Technological change has created opportunities for organisations and candidates to communicate 24/7. It has also enabled people from anywhere in the world to connect. The bad news is that this ease of communication creates the assumption that it is easy to get to interview stage. Here are some common reasons why the process is not working and some relevant examples:

  • The recruiter may write a vague advertisement or do not check the details and attract too many candidates or even inappropriate candidates. One example is a recruitment client who accidently marked the location for the job as Melbourne, USA, not Melbourne, Australia!

 

  • The candidate will tend to write generic one application for many jobs and avoid tailoring their application for each job. The similarity of the process may also make candidates assume the requirements for each application are exactly the same for every job. I helped a client get through to the ‘yes’ pile after their first application was rejected. By helping them write an authentic cover letter that described why they were really interested in the organisation the second application was successful.

 

  • Candidates do not read the job application instructions. Another client specifically asked for an extra piece of information in the application – a short description of their interest in this small, start up business. Only one applicant out of 60 actually submitted as per client’s instructions! If you want the role you have to follow the application instructions exactly. There is usually a very good reason why they want this information.

 

  • The technology is only as smart on recruitment as the person who entered the selection criteria in the recruitment system. Some recruitment software providers call it ‘AI’, where key word matching is a tool used to shorten a large application list. If your application does not include the key words, its unlikely it will make it to stage two, having a human review it. Once I had a client apply for a role in Australia who was originally from America. The computer system allocated my client’s application to the USA office due to an assumption based on the last role, which happened to be in USA!

 

I am sure that you will appreciate that there are many other reasons for lack of job application success. Watch this TedTalk on one recruiter’s experience of poor online applications for internships in Dubai and suggestions on why they were unsuccessful.

What will you do differently to make you are in the ‘yes’ pile?

Here are our top three tips to help you prepare successful job applications.

Tip #1: Take a strategic approach to your job search

One of the most important tips for job searching is to value the learning experience and start by preparing your story and exploring your interests, personality, values and strengths before setting a career direction. Then the job search is actually the marketing part of your job search, not the starting point.

Set aside some time when you have no deadlines or interruptions to review and update your resume (and your career strategy too) when you do not need it. This will take the pressure off yourself to produce something quickly when you need to make a job application. By allocating time to write your resume when you are not applying for a new job you will be less stressed and thinking clearer about what you include in your resume.

Incorporating career planning and resume updates into your year will also help you to prepare for your annual appraisal and reflect on your career progress too. Your resume is a marketing document and using the principles of ‘getting prepared before you go to market’ by clearly knowing what you want to sell, who is your likely customer, will help you create a winning resume.

Think of your resume as a database of your career history. You can create a long document that lists your key achievements and records your career moves, qualifications ready to edit down to create a tailored resume for a specific application. This could also be used for your annual career development and appraisal discussions with your boss. Think about how you can use this database to help argue your case for a pay rise too.

Tip #2: Focus on solving the hirer’s problem

A client rang me very stressed about an executive level job application and wanted resume writing help in the next 24 hours. When I reviewed the advertisement, it required a specific qualification that my client did not have. When I pointed this out to my client, they were so relieved that they did not waste their time applying for a job that they had no chance of getting.

This story illustrates that so many job seekers do not know what the recruiter wants. Often our fear of acceptance is tied up in writing a resume and we feel that the audience is judging us by reading our resume. In reality, when you apply for a job, your audience will want you to succeed as they want you to fix their problem – to fill their vacancy.

The audience, or recruiter, will have written a job advertisement with an ideal candidate in mind. So, use the information they give you to understand what they are interested in. Create a checklist to make sure that you have written about all the ‘essential criteria’ in your resume. That way you will be writing about what they are interest in and easily engage your audience.

Get familiar with your audience. Do some research on the company, find out why there is a vacancy, explore their culture and look at the profile of the people who are in the recruitment process. Company website and LinkedIn are great resources for this information. See glassdoor.com for some key employer profiles.

Using this technique will also help you to check whether you are applying for a role that is right for you too.

Tip #3: Analyse the job advertisement to avoid wasting your efforts

Read the job advertisement and position description in detail to check that you are clear on the job requirements (see the key criteria section). Then, use a checklist to make sure that you match at least 80% of the key criteria. Do not waste your time on applying for jobs that are not right for you. This exercise will keep you objective and help you to plan how you write your application too.

Use the advertisement to learn about the organisation reasons for the vacancy. Note any concerns. This is research! Get to know your job market – country, industry and profession. This analysis will also help you to reflect on why you want the job too. All important to include this in your cover letter.

Need extra help?

If you are feeling stressed about your job search in Australian and would like career coaching support contact us for a complementary initial discussion on your needs and how our coaching programs can help you to make the most of your job applications on our website.

Sue Daniels +61 417 331 162. sue@diversitas.com.au

Kelly Magowan +61 417 330 693 kelly@diversitas.com.au

Want to be a successful Leader? Start with Personality Profiling

Like a thumbprint, personality type provides an instant snapshot of a person’s uniqueness’ Isabel Briggs Myers

Being a coach gives us the privilege of supporting inspiring professionals and executives throughout their challenging and rewarding careers. We are often introduced to a new client when they are leveraging their technical brilliance and transitioning to a leadership role. However, while the technical brilliance has taken them far, their people skills have not often been sufficiently developed to succeed as a leader. Hence, they seek the expertise of a Career & Executive Coach to help them explore and understand themselves in a safe space.

The trigger for seeking help can be a myriad of things. As they reach midlife it is natural to question who they are and our place in the world, to re-asses their values and their purpose in life.   Or, it may be that they are unable to progress to the next level due to decision makers believing that they are not competent to take on people responsibility.  Other drivers for help include support to undo bad career habits or to help develop or re-build more authentic relationships in their work and personal lives.

The challenge is that most of our clients have never been provided with a framework or the tools to develop high level people skills. Unfortunately, organisations often can justify technical career development training, but struggle to invest in people skills development.

Personality Profiling assessments are a well validated and reliable tool that we use to help our clients to develop their people skills and become an effective leader across all stakeholder relationships.

 

The role of Personality Profiling in coaching leaders

We often start a coaching program with a new client by completing a feedback session on a personality profiling assessment (MBTI, The Majors or Birkman). This exercise helps our clients to review their preferences on career drivers, their leadership style, team interaction style, how they live their life and also an indication on what might cause them stress.

The assessment provides an objective view on themselves, something that they have not often experienced. This is the first stage of being true to self and thinking about ourselves as an individual rather than labelling, just like job titles and functions.

When exploring personality preferences clients gain deep insights into how they can be more effective in their work and personal life. These insights can help clients to become focussed on their true purpose and gives them confidence to be true to themselves.

Unfortunately, society sets perceptions of what we should do with our life to be accepted. As humans, we want acceptance but sometimes we lose who we truly are in the process. Personality profiling helps us to find the right balance and be true to who we are.

 

Why are we afraid of finding out who we truly are?

Labels are just the beginning of understanding ourselves. Unfortunately, much of the training provided in the workplace does not go beyond the first step of describing the personality type. If a type tool is used (for example MBTI®), then describing the 16 categories is the end of the learning session. To really understand your ‘type’, you need to go beyond this and dig deeper into the analysis of the results and explore how the preferences are used for each individual. Whilst we are labelled with one of the 16 types, we actually use all of the opposite preferences too. The secret to using type is learning how each individual uses all the different preferences, and in what order.

Secondly, the type assessment helps us to understand others. By using the Type framework, we can read behaviours of other people and assess what drives them. If you are working with multiple stakeholders or leading people, this framework will be an invaluable tool to help you to read others’ needs. For example, if you are selling to someone with an S (Sensing) preference they will want evidence or data to convince them to buy. They are unlikely to tell you their preference.  However, their questions or your well-crafted questions will give you clues on their preference.

Contact us to understand more about the range of coaching packages we have on understanding your personal preferences to develop your leadership skills and develop a greater understanding of yourself, your team, management and clients.

When your personality is aligned with what your soul is here to do, nobody can beat you at it’– Oprah Winfrey

 

BUILDING RESILIENCE DURING CHANGE

Is change really that new?

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Today’s business world is faced with many challenges of change and disruption. That, we can all agree on. However, change and major disruption is not actually new! Change that we are experiencing today is often due to technological change as well as short – termism in a chaotic environment. Is this change necessarily bigger or different than other changes our environment has had to endure in the past? Think about how world wars, disastrous weather events, political coups and corporate takeovers have reshaped reality for many people over the centuries. On a personal level, we may experience accidents that lead to disabilities and loss of a loved one at any age, which has not changed over time.

Each generation is experiencing their change in their own way and they will face challenges relevant to the current disruptions in their world.  Some industries and professions will have different factors to drive their need for change. Overall, we find that many clients get stuck trying to understand the changing environment, or simply get lost in the chaos and become immobilised.

Understanding the environment

In an attempt to understand the chaos of today’s world of work, a popular term – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), has evolved in management speak. Initially developed in the military, this term is being used as a framework to help leaders to understand the world they operate in as well as indicate the key strengths they need to survive.

The Agile method was introduced to create effective project management skills. Is all work in today’s business world 100% project based? Are all roles temporary or changing all the time? Unfortunately, one method seems to be adopted as best practice in many work environments. In some cases, the senior management have not changed their work practices and further alienated the employees but forcing change on them. Adopting one method of work does not necessarily alter the culture in which we work or help each individual to cope with change. It seems that proper analysis of work practices, employee needs and talent management is missing from the transition to new work environments.

Coaching tools to build resilience

Whilst these terms, VUCA and Agile, are helpful to understand the environment, more needs to be done to help leaders and their teams to cope with this dynamic world and build resilience.  How we experience and overcome change and chaos is an individual journey. From our coaching experience, we do not see enough proactive assistance to help individuals in their personal and professional development to build resilience before they are thrown in the deep end. Often organisations contact us after the change (or several changes) has been enforced and then they want remedial coaching when employees are not coping.

One of the key interventions that we use to help our clients cope with the world work is personality profiling tools. We use Birkman or Type tools such as MBTI or Majors to help our client really understand their behaviours, interests and needs to help them readily identify how they will build resilience to cope in a VUCA world as well as build relationships and communicate effectively to people who are different to themselves.

Being proactive and introducing professional development using personality profiling at the forming stage of teams and new recruits into the organisation will provide the tools to help everyone in the organisation prepare for and cope with the chaos. Hopefully then we can move away from the analysis of the environment and into building resilience to manage the environment effectively and create teams that successfully cope with a VUCA world.

Diversitas have supported with organisations of all sizes in developing and delivering effective career and executive coaching programs using personality profiling to build resilience for senior management and their teams. Go to www.diversitas.com.au for more information.