Monday, July 6, 2015
Back in my days of working in Higher Education, I would often times tell my students that the value of a cover letter goes a long way of making that first crucial impression with a potential employer. My favorite quote (that I came up with myself) that I used to tell my upcoming graduates was "Presentation is the essential key to succeeding in life." I would explain that this thought expanded to a well written cover letter, a detailed resume and a well delivered face to face interview. All these factors, contributed to how an employer viewed you for their advertised position and ultimately defined you as a candidate as to why the employer needed to hire you! This was and probably still is good advice....until of recent. Let me explain.
I was a firm advocate of a well written cover letter. Let me emphasize the "was" part of that statement. In my most recent position as an HR Director, I cannot tell you how many cover letters I read, skimmed over, ignored, etc. The reason is simple. TIME. I honestly did not have the time or energy to read a cover letter appetizer. Though, I will say, I did notice when a candidate included a cover letter along with their resume and application. I mean, who doesn't like the occasional appetizer now and again? What I really found myself craving was the actual meat and potatoes of their individual accomplishments. I wanted to see their resume tell me their individual story of how they got to be where they are today. The Main Course Resume and TIME, was what mattered to me the most.
TIME. The time it took me to read their cover letter. Time it took them to write the cover letter. Time spent that both parties could have used on other resources. Let's be honest here, not only is it vested time in the employer, but it is time consuming for the active candidate to draft a company/position specific cover letter every. single.time. they want to apply to a position of interest. Then you add in the extra ingredients of an online application (and all the new ADA, PreOffer, VEVRAA , etc. requirements into the mix) and we are talking at least an hour application process per position.
Bottom line: Cover Letters are simply Appetizers. Resumes are the Meat and Potatoes. References are the Dessert (sometimes with a cherry on top ;-) ). While some HR professionals may want the "appetizers", personally for me I want the Main Course and the Dessert, too. I feel those two combinations of a Resume and References, truly are indicative of a candidate's skills, abilities and talents. So why then must we continue to indulge in the The Cover Letter Appetizer? Do we really put weight into cover letters? For me, on the reviewing end, I do not always need an appetizer. However, now that I am the one doing the applying and pursuing new positions, I must admit I do take the time to include my Cover Letter Appetizer. Though I only indulge in the appetizer if: 1. It is a requirement (you know... that annoying red asterisk that you see online when applying) or 2. I really, REALLY want to be called for an interview because my Main Course is Filet Mignon after all.
There is nothing more disappointing (when I invest one hour or longer in applying to a job online that includes a personalized cover letter, resume, references, application, and questionnaire) then to receive a generic "Thanks, but no Thanks" automated email response within 5 minutes of me pressing the "submit" button. UGH...and double UGH. However....this is the process and this IS to be expected. My advice? It is your individual decision on whether you want to invest in a full course meal....ummm....you know....the entire online application of personalizing the Cover Letter to an advertised position?! It certainly can't hurt to have one, just be sure it is a good appetizer that truly leads up to the main course of your Filet Resume. Don't forget to save room for some Dessert...employers do like their Dessert!
Great...now I am hungry....
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
As a LinkedIn Member and as an HR professional, I would consider myself an active participant of LinkedIn for both recruiting candidates and for networking with other professionals. More recently, as I am the one personally seeking a new opportunity, I use LinkedIn to obtain as much inside knowledge about a company and their current employees. I call this the "courting phase".
When I am pursing a new opportunity, I want to make sure I am investing myself wisely. This includes research on the company culture, their mission/vision, their products and their internal staff. It's more than just a potential opportunity, it could be the next step in my professional career. This future company that I am researching, may in fact become my "second family" in due time, so why not take the time to do my due diligence to learn about the company and internal employees. When I obtain that first interview, I am in fact wanting to learn more about the company, just as much as they want to learn about me. In a sense we are "courting". In doing so, this means both sides are mutually looking into each other's profile, to determine if this would be a mutually benefitical relationship.
In reflecting on this initial courting phase, the thought occurred to me "how does it look to the employer I am pursuing if I request to connect with the Recruiter or HR Manager before, during or after the initial interview process?" Does it appear that I am motivated and interested OR does it look like I am desperate if I request to connect before I even have the interview? Does it look like I am truly interested in the position if I ask to connect to the Recruiter/HR Manager after the initial interview? Or how about if I wait all altogether and NOT do anything? Am I playing hard to get? Does that mean I appear as though I have no interest in the position or company? These questions have been running through my mind, especially since I am the one now looking for a new position.
When I was employed as an HR Director in my prior position, I was impressed when potential candidates requested to connect with me. However, on an average I had at least 5 requests per week to connect with someone. It may have been an industry leading partner, past colleague, or a potential candidate. In receiving these requests, I was always particular on accepting random invites and asked myself the question "can this benefit me and my employer"? If the answer was yes, I would accept the "connect request" if the answer was "no", I would not accept. Sometimes, I would just let the request sit there in my inbox until LinkedIn sent me a handful of reminders before I made my final decision.
In my profession, it is crucial to have a network. I find this partnership to have paid off on both sides of the spectrum time and time again. I will admit when it came to potential candidates, I was impressed during the interview process if they asked me first if it "was okay to connect" via LinkedIn. I was equally impressed if they didn't ask, but later sent me an email request to connect. This spoke volumes to me that the candidate was interested in me as an employer and in the position I was currently looking to fill. With the LinkedIn benefits of "who's viewed your profile" indicates to a candidate (or in this case me) if a potential employer is in fact interested in pursuing things further. During this current job search that I am in, I have been selective on sending out requests to connect to potential employers that I was or wanted to "court". I was unclear on the "protocol" on asking "when" to connect. The thought never occurred to me when I was the one doing the hiring, however, now that the shoe is on the other foot and I am the one seeking employment; I am curious as to how other Recruiters and HR professionals view the email request to connect.
It you are taking the time to read this post, I want to hear from you on this topic! What do you think when you are recruiting for a position? Does it annoy you to have candidates request to connect before you even interview them? Does it impress you if they request during or after the interview process? What is your stance? How do you view the question "To Connect or Not Connect"?
"Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you."
"Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together."