Career Report
April, 2009 — Issue 110

BLK FREE Job Seeker Webinar Series Generates Rave Reviews

BLK’s free Job Seeker Webinar series, begun as a community service to those whose careers are in transition, has garnered rave reviews from its participants. Bob Larson, CPC, President of Berman Larson Kane, bases these informal, interactive presentations on over 30 years of experience in the employment field. Susan Cocchiaro, CTS, PHR, CRS, Carol Shea, Vice President of Berman Larson Kane, Debra Quiat, CIR and Yesenia Casallas, Senior Interview Coach, have also shared their expertise on a variety of issues. Some of the positive comments we’ve been receiving include:

“I love these webinars! I learn something every week.”

“It was very informative and structured in a way that I picked up excellent points I can use to prepare for my next scheduled interview. Thank you.”

“Good content and speaker. Real life situations make lasting responses. By using situations instead of textbook remarks the information is reinforced. I wish they were an hour long.”

“A truly powerful presentation that although concise (due to time constraints) brought out a wealth of relevant and very useful information. Thanks.”

“My “millenial”-generation son used information gained from your webinars that helped him locate and obtain a position. It was through him, and because of his success, that I found my way to the webinars.”

We welcome everyone to our webinars and hope that you’ll consider joining this growing group of enthusiastic participants. The topic for each webinar is posted on our website, and you may register for each session directly through our site. You may also click here to view one of our most popular archived webinars FREE during the week of April 6th.

A Good Cover Letter Can Offer an Edge

Now that electronic résumé submissions have become commonplace, job-seekers need to keep in mind the continued importance of an accompanying cover letter. According to an article in The New York Times, they are still necessary and they can give you a serious edge in your job search if they are written and presented effectively. In the following Q&A feature, careers columnist Phyllis Korkki offers the following thoughts on the topic:

Q. Why are cover letters still necessary in this day and age?

Cover letters are a graceful way to introduce yourself, to convey your personality and to impress a hiring manager with your experience and your writing skills, said Katy Piotrowski, an author of career books and a career counselor based in Fort Collins, Colo. You can also tailor them to a specific company in ways that you cannot with a résumé.

Piotrowski recently had a job opening at her small company, Career Solutions Group, and she was dismayed when about a quarter of the 200 applicants did not send cover letters. Most were within five years of graduating from college, she said, reflecting a more informal mind-set among younger people.

Q. How should you organize your cover letter, how long should it be, and what should it say?

First, do your best to find the decision maker’s name, and use it in a salutation. If you are applying to a blind ad, say “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To the hiring manager.” Piotrowski said she received a cover letter that had no salutation at all or began with “Hey there” – not a strong start. If you want to be on the safe side, use a colon after the salutation, although some people now feel it is permissible to use a comma in an e-mail message.

Your cover letter should be short—generally no longer than three or four paragraphs, said Debra Wheatman, a career expert at Vault, a jobs Web site. In your first paragraph, explain why you are writing – it may be that you were referred to the company through networking, or that you learned that the company is expanding, said Wendy S. Enelow, author of “Cover Letter Magic” and a professional résumé writer in Virginia.

In the middle paragraphs, explain why you are a good candidate, and show that you are knowledgeable about the company. Then convey a clear story about your career, and highlight specific past achievements. This can either be done as a narrative or in bullet points, Enelow told The New York Times. You can also highlight qualities you possess that may not fit the confines of a résumé, Wheatman said.

Finish your letter by indicating that you will follow-up in the near future (and make good on that promise). Sign off with a “Sincerely,” “Cordially,” “Thank you for your consideration,” or similar closer, followed by your name and, if you like, your e-mail address.

Q: Should you cover letter appear in an e-mail or in an attachment?

You can include your letter in the actual text of your e-mail message or place it above your résumé in an attachment. If you put it in a separate attachment from your résumé, you run the risk that a harried hiring manager will not click on it at all. If you place it in the text of your e-mail message, it should generally be shorter than if you use an attachment, Enelow said.

Then if you really want to make an impression, make a hard copy of your cover letter and résumé and send it to the hiring manager by regular mail. Attach a handwritten note that says, “Second submission; I’m very interested,” Piotrowski said. “I’ve had clients double their rate of interviews simply by doing that.”

Enelow calls this “double-hitting,” and pointed out that she has seen it work remarkably well. She said that a senior-level client of hers got an interview and was hired because the hard copy of his cover letter and résumé reached the company president, whereas his electronic application was rejected by someone in human resources because it did not meet certain rigid criteria.

Q. What are some common mistakes in cover letters?

Cover letters with typos, misspellings and poor sentence structure may take you out of the running for a job. If you cannot afford to pay someone to review your cover letter and résumé, enlist a friend or family member with good language skills to do it instead.

Another misguided thing people do is make the cover letter all about them: “I did this, I’m looking for, I want to…I,I,I.” Structure your letter so that it stresses the company and what you can do to help it reach its goals, Piotrowski and others said.

Another danger is including too much information – for example, very specific salary or geographic requirements, Enelow told the newspaper. It is also unwise to point out that you do not meet all the criteria in the job description, she said. You can deal with that later, if you get an interview. Hiring managers are looking for ways to exclude you as they narrow down their applications, she said. Do not give them that ammunition.

News from BLK

As spring approaches, the warmer weather brings new growth and new opportunities! In the event your company needs recruiting assistance, please keep our TIER program in mind. This flat fee option averages 15% for successful professional placements. Michele Meussner, CTS, Director of Client Services, would be happy to help you discover the benefits of this unique staffing program. Please call her directly at 201-556-2884 or email her at