Cover Letters—A Waste of Time or a Valuable Tool?

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The Answer—It depends!  When working with employers who are recruiting our students and alumni, this question has been asked many times.  What I’ve discovered is that they are split about 50-50 when asked about the value of cover letters.  Some tell me they seldom if ever read cover letters submitted with resumes, but others tell me they won’t even look at a resume if they don’t like what they see in the cover letter.

So what’s a Job Seeker to do?  My advice is to always send a high quality cover letter with your resume.  After all, you won’t know ahead of time whether you are sending your resume to an employer who values these letters or one who doesn’t.  So, play it safe and submit one every time you apply for a job.  If it’s well-written, it certainly can’t hurt you—and could help.  If nothing else, it shows the employer you are a more serious candidate who took the time to “go that extra step.”

The key word here is “well-written.”  A generic cover letter where you simply change the position title and employer contact information just won’t do!  Take the time to review the job description and the employer’s website to determine what the employer is looking for.  Then, call attention to those things about you and your background that relate directly to the employer’s requirements—and yes, this means you’ll be writing a different letter for each position.  In addition, use a standard business letter format, and just like your resume, make sure your cover letter is flawless—no spelling or grammatical errors, and a concise, well-organized presentation of your skills and qualifications that directly relate to the job you are applying for (3-4 paragraphs, and never longer than one page).

One final tip: Address your letter to a “real person” if at all possible.  You can sometimes find this on the employer’s website, or you can try calling their human resources department.  Just tell them you are getting ready to apply for [position name} and need to know who to send your application to.  This will work at least 70 – 80% of the time.  If you simply can’t find a name, address your letter to a job title, like Human Resources Representative or Marketing Manager.  DON’T ever use “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”  Most employers find those salutations to be highly offensive and probably won’t even read your letter or resume!

Posted on November 18th, 2014 by

Avoid Common Networking Mistakes

Even though much has been written about online networking etiquette, I still experience some common networking no-no’s.  I share these as a way to help you avoid making the same mistakes and leaving your potential connections thinking you don’t really understand the “rules” of networking.

First of all, the computer generated LinkedIn (or any other networking web site) message that says you want to connect is not enough.  Do not send me a request to connect without personalizing your message.  Did I meet you in a class, at a networking event, or perhaps an association meeting?  Do we have a common connection that has prompted you to contact me?  Remind me because I may not remember and so why should I connect with you?  Connecting is about building relationships and you can’t do that if you don’t specify your reason for wanting to connect.

Are you hoping some of your connections will be able to refer you to someone else?  If so, you need to help them help you.  Provide them with a copy of your resume.  Be specific about your needs.  It is your job to check out their profile to see who they are connected with that you would like to be introduced to and then explain the reason for your interest.

Also, don’t forget that networking is not just about you and your needs.  Make sure that you are anticipating the needs of others and share relevant information when it comes to you.  Networking is relationship-building and relationships are give as well as take.

Posted on November 11th, 2014 by

I Attended the Career Fair . . . Now What? Three Strategies for Effective Follow-Up

BU Career Fair

 A big shout out to so many of you who made our Fall Career Fair such a great success! With over 50 employers, we were forced to start a waiting list. With over 230 attendees, people looking for employment and networking opportunities kept the rooms buzzing.

So what happens when the career fair is over? What do you do after you’ve eaten all the candy from your swag bag and re-gifted all the items you picked up from employer tables that you really don’t want?

Here are three ways for you to take the next steps after a career fair.

1) Realize that attending a career fair is Step Two. The first step—after you decide that you’re going to attend a career fair—is: RESEARCH. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, identifying the employers that you want to speak to and researching those companies is an important step to complete before attending a career fair. (See previous blog posts on attending career fairs for explanations on this process.)

2) CONNECT. After the career fair, call the individuals that you spoke to at the career fair. (Yes . . . dig those business cards out of your swag bag and use them.) Call the people from the list of employers that you made in Step One, and ask if you can set up informational interviews with them. (See previous blog posts on informational interviews for explanations on this process.) If you haven’t already, send an invitation to connect via Linkedin. And then, do more research. Go back to the details the person provided you during the career fair. (Perhaps you wrote down these details with one of the many pens and pads of paper that were being given away.) Use these details as jumping off points for areas in which to conduct more research about the company. Are there additional people (especially Bellevue University students/alumni) who work at the companies you’re researching? Touch base with them for additional information.

If you spent a significant amount of time speaking with a recruiter at the career fair, or if that person provided information that was especially helpful, send him/her a handwritten thank you note.

3) PREPARE. Get your questions ready. The key is to be brief, so not too many questions. Five to seven is a good range. Focus the interview on the individual you are talking to. How long has he/she been with the company? What does he/she like best about the organization? (Again, previous blog posts on informational interviews will help.)

Prompt follow-up and after care will make you stand out among all the other career fair attendees who applied for positions without making personal contact with the recruiter. Take action early—within a week of attending the career fair for thank you notes and no more than 14 days for scheduling an informational interview. In this way, you may still be fresh in the recruiter’s mind.

Remember that attending a career fair is the middle step in a process. The work doesn’t stop simply because the career fair is over.

Have you ever reached out to recruiters after a career fair? If so, what did you do, and what was the result?

Fall Career Fair 2014

Bellevue University’s Annual Career Fair will be held on our main campus at 1000 Galvin Road South, Bellevue, NE in the Garden Level of the Administrative Services Building on Thursday, October 30th from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by BAT Logistics, Nebraska Machinery Company, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, and U.S. Cellular.  You will have the chance to meet with dozens of top employers to discuss current and future career and internship opportunities in a variety of industries and career fields. The event is open to students, alumni, faculty, staff and the general public.

Participating employers include: First National Bank of Omaha, Boys Town National Research Hospital, Children’s Square USA, Physician’s Mutual, FBI, Developmental Services of Nebraska, Tigerpaw Software Inc., and Kiewit. Review the complete list of participating employers at http://www.bellevue.edu/services/content/pdfs/employer-list.pdf.

Dress for success, bring your resume and come meet employers!  Pre-registration is not required.

Posted on October 28th, 2014 by