How to Get the Job

Resume? …Check!

Portfolio? …Check!

References? …Check!

Cover Letter? …Check!

Impressive Professional Outfit? …Check!

You have everything they told you was required… why haven’t you been hired?

Chances are you have all the content, but your writing might be why someone else is getting chosen over you.

Having the right qualifications, easy to read formatted resume and praised recommendations are all important necessities when applying, but the cover letter is what separates you.

Picture yourself as an employer. You have two twentysomething applications in front of you. Both are from Ivy League schools, have the same GPA and meet all the qualifications. You only have the budget for one new employee. Which one do you choose?

You choose the one who most resonates with you; the one who wedges his/her way into your memory; the one who told you a better story.

“A good story goes further in the twentysomething years than perhaps at any other time in life.” ~The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay (p. 62)

The cover letter is your opportunity to capture your future employer’s attention. Instead of telling a chronological explanation of your highlighted experiences and accomplishments, create an engaging story. Grasp their attention. Make them want to read your cover letter because it is different from the tens to hundreds sitting in the same pile.

Go back to the basic writing skills you learned in English class about a story arc. Do you remember this chart?

story arc

Try to use the story arc to tell your professional story. Be selective and share specific moments that can form pictures.

“As a twentysomething, life is still more about potential than proof. Those who can tell a good story about who they are and what they want to leap over those who can’t.” ~The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay (p. 62)

This was hard to hear the first time I read this. I was very proud of all my accomplishments in college. I thought my experiences set me up very well. To think my experience meant nothing kind of hurt… It took my pride away, but only for a moment.

I realized the point wasn’t that the experience gathered as a twentysomething was not important, but that it was more important to showcase traits that can be improved upon. 

When an employer is looking to hire a twentysomething most likely they are looking for someone to grow with the company. Someone who has the fundamentals to be a good employee. Someone who can listen to directions and improve over time. Someone who can be easily trained.

How can this be reflected in an a cover letter? It sounds like something that has to be demonstrated in person and perhaps over a period of time.

The answer is in the story. Your well written story will show that you have the two most basic, yet highly necessary skills needed of every employee; communication and reasoning.

Having good communication means you can receive direction, relay information, and express your own thoughts. Reasoning is important because it allows you to operate on your own and make key decisions. Having both these skills gives the employer something to start with, something with a success rate that can be molded into the long term employee they need.

In your story you can relay what type of person you are and what type of employee you can be. (I think both are important.) You can reason out how you can be a key aset to the company and how you want to grow.

“Stories that sound too simple seem inexperienced and lacking. But stories that sound too complicated imply a sort of internal disorganization that employers simply don’t want.” ~The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay (p. 62-63)

This is why I would suggest outlining your thoughts first. Organize them in a manor that pertains to the position and to each other. Then you can get a better handle of capturing the best illustration of yourself and keep it all on one page.

Take your time on your cover letter. Personalize them for each position you apply for. Select specific illustrated stories that most apply to the position. Get feedback (I’d love to help review your cover letter through email at asktheyoungprofessional@gmail.com).

This might not be your one chance, but it is probably your best chance to grab the attention of an employer.

I know I need to go back and update my cover letter. I encourage you to join me because it turns out our English teachers were right, our writing skills will always be important.

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2 thoughts on “How to Get the Job

  1. What a great post! I think Cover Letters are the devil’s doing, and as much as I hate to admit this, they CAN be the one thing that separates you from a job offer, and a let down email.

    In school, we went through a few weeks where we extensively learned tips and tricks for cover letters. This was the book we used, and it’s actually written by the professors who taught it. It’s a great overall book on strategic communications from front to back. http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Writing-Multimedia-Relations-Advertising/dp/0205591620

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