Why a Cover Letter MATTERS

Job openings always ask to see a resume and often ask for cover letters, but not always. So as a candidate you may think that a cover letter is an “option,” as in “not required.”

And it may well not be required, but it’s never not an option, not if you want to greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.

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A cover letter can be very powerful. It can help your application stand out in a sea of candidates with about the same skills, background and education requested in the job posting.  It can be “the determining factor” in whether or not you get called in for an interview.

The Many Benefits of a Cover Letter

  1. It helps you stand out.

As mentioned above, when having to choose who to interview among similar candidates, a well-crafted cover letter can end up being your golden ticket to the interview.

  1. It can showcase skills and background that don’t fit in a resume.

You are so much more than the work history on your resume. There are difficult projects you completed that need to be highlighted, challenges overcome in a job not easily delineated in a resume, skills possessed that aren’t required in a job description but which are helpful and should be described, and so on.

  1. You can target a cover letter easily for each position for which you apply.

Every account manager position is different from any other account manager opportunity and while your resume will speak highly of your abilities and accomplishments as an account manager in the past, your cover letter allows you to speak specifically as to how and why those skills will help this employer.

For example, the job posting mentions that the person selected for the account manager position will be expanding into a new product territory. You worked at your last employer for three years, but six months of your tenure there saw you expanding a product line’s sales by 150 percent in a new territory. An accomplishment such as that should be placed near the top of your cover letter to pique a hiring manager’s or recruiter’s interest! (And also mentioned on your resume.)

  1. A cover letter can explain gaps in your employment history.

Few of us have a job history with no breaks. If have a job history hole of more than six months, you can address the reason in the cover letter. This is especially important if the gap in work history is recent.

Examples: “After taking time off to complete my master’s degree in psychology in a year…” “After taking time off to raise my children until they reached elementary school age…” “After taking time off to help care for my father with Alzheimer’s disease…”

Bottom line? Always include a cover letter for each application. Write a different cover letter for each position, highlighting the skills, background and accomplishments relevant to the position that showcase your value to the employer.

We’ve been helping Southern Californians find – and land – great jobs for 45 years, so we know a thing or two about making candidates attractive to employers. If you’re looking for new opportunities, check out our current job postings and then either apply (don’t forget the cover letter!) and/or contact the Helpmates office nearest you. Contact us to learn more about our recruiting services.

Simplifying Your Recruiting Process

In our opinion, good recruiting boils down to two things: great (clear) job descriptions and a strong and large community in which to network.

In other words, when a recruiter understands the needs of a job completely and has a lively network of professional relationships to help her find great-fit candidates, extending an offer should happen quickly.

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Really. It’s not complicated; all of us (recruiters, hiring managers, HR professionals, etc.) have just made it so.

A Simple Recruiting Process

We live in the real world with you and as much as we all would love recruiting to be as easy as described above, we know that’s not possible. Still, just because it’s not possible doesn’t mean it can be made easier, simpler.

Take a look below at what we believe is a roadmap to simplifying your recruitment efforts.

  1. It all starts with the job description.

If the job description is fuzzy, incomplete, etc., your search for a great candidate is already in danger. You can’t find what you need if you’re not clear what that need is.  And “I’ll know it when I see it” is a recipe for convoluted, drawn-out process, possibly resulting in hiring someone who really isn’t a good fit.

Instead, a clear, comprehensive job description helps keep recruiters and hiring managers focused, and when one has clarity and focus, recruiting magic happens!

  1. Help applicants help you: make it easy to apply.

Don’t ask applicants to fill out a long application online (they can fill it out at length if the come in for an interview or after hired). Consider allowing them to simply send you their LinkedIn profile as a sort of preliminary application.

Finally, not every great employee looks great on paper or has access to a computer: don’t force people to apply online. If they prefer to bring their resume and cover letter – or to even fill out a paper application in your office – let them!

  1. Keep that interview process humming!

For the love of everything you find precious, don’t bog down the interview process! In this candidate-driven market, your applicants are busy people (busy interviewing at your competitors)! Require that they go through too many interviews before extending an offer and you’ll lose them. How many interviews is enough? One or two, tops: a preliminary screening chat and the interview with the hiring manager.

  1. Be available and communicate with your candidates.

If they have more questions after the interview, answer the phone and talk to them (or e-mail them a response to their query). Tell them upfront what your hiring timeline is and make every effort to meet your self-imposed decision deadline. (Make your decision no more than a few days after interviewing/checking references.) Let candidates know if you’re not interested in them as soon as you know so. Thank them for interviewing, sincerely wish them well and tell them a little bit as to what they were lacking: “We needed five years’ experience and the person we chose had eight.”

  1. Ask for help.

You hire employees to scale your business and get more done more quickly, so why not scale your recruiting process with the help of staffing professionals? Having a staffing firm do the preliminary leg work (source, vet, first interview, etc.) can save a considerable amount of time, allowing you to concentrate on your own work, spending time interviewing and hiring only after the top candidates have been identified.

Helpmates has been helping Los Angeles and Orange County employers find great talent for 45 years: we know where the good guys are! Contact us to learn more about our recruiting services.

To Fight Unemployment Claims – or Not

As an owner (or HR manager) of a small – or even large – Los Angeles or Orange County business, one of your main focuses probably is on keeping unemployment claims down. After all, you don’t want to have to pay an unemployment claim if it’s fraudulent:

  • The more unemployment claims you pay, the higher your unemployment tax rate. (Your rate depends on how many ex-employees collect unemployment after leaving your company.)
  • However, paying the claim –even if it’s “iffy” — could mean your company steers clear of a discrimination or wrongful discharge lawsuit, therefore saving time and money dealing with the suit. What’s more, paying unemployment also could raise your chances of winning a discrimination/wrongful discharge suit.

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So it’s a sticky wicket: pay every claim in order in order to possibly avoid a lawsuit but risk the chance you potentially increase your unemployment taxes considerably.

There are some very good reasons not to contest any claim. Here are two:

  • Let someone go – for whatever reason – and he likely is to be very angry. If you fired him, there was a good reason you didn’t want him around anymore. Do you really want to spend time – and lots of money – dealing with him again? Probably not.
  • What’s more, as Talent Management and HR (EREMedia.com) put it recently, “it’s your fault if someone is fired,” because there almost always are indications that a candidate will be trouble. So if you hired the individual anyway, you need to take some responsibility for it.

Does this just stick in your craw? After all, not contesting an unemployment claim when someone was fired for legitimate misconduct!? What planet are we living on!?

And we understand. Truly. Too many people file fraudulent unemployment claims as it is, so to not contest it feels as if we’re condoning such behavior!

When should you contest an unemployment claim?

When you fired an employee for legitimate misconduct and you have solid documentation. After all, no one filing an illegitimate claim is going to admit to doing so. So you need solid proof, which includes documentation and or witnesses (and remember to create the documentation before you fire the employee).

Let us take on the burden of unemployment insurance.

Helpmates can become your workers’ employer of record (EOR), thus becoming your now-employees’ legal employer. We therefore take on all related employer responsibilities, including unemployment insurance claims. We would handle – and pay for – all unemployment insurance claims. In other words, if we feel a claim is fraudulent, we make the decision whether to contest it and reap – for good or bad – all the consequences of the ruling.

For more information on our EOR services, contact the Helpmates office nearest you and ask to speak to the branch manager.

You’re Working Hard, Yet You Haven’t Been Promoted. What to Do

You’ve worked at your employer for at least a year, possibly even two or three. You’ve worked hard, have always come in on time (if not even early) and never left until after everyone else had gone home.  You did more than was expected of you and were often complimented on the great work you did. Your boss also has given you an atta boy/atta girl several times over the last few months.

Yet as much as you want a promotion, as much as you absolutely deserve a promotion, you’ve watched as others received them, but not you.

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What gives? We’ve listed several possibilities below.

  1. You never actually asked for a promotion.

That’s right: you need to ask.

Should your boss notice your great work and accomplishments? Sure! But will she? Maybe, but maybe not. After all, she has her own concerns and more than likely is focused mostly on making sure she does her own job well. She needs to be sure she’s keeping her own boss happy (and securing her own promotions). And even if she does notice the great job you’re doing – and certainly appreciates it – she  may have thought that if you wanted a promotion, you would have asked for it.

Scenarios where the boss surprises you with a promotion and a fat raise? Those usually happen only in the movies. You need to ask to get.

  1. Your boss doesn’t think you’re ready.

Your supervisor did notice all your hard work and accomplishments, but when you bring the subject up, your boss tells you she thinks that while you’re on the path to promotion, she doesn’t think you’re quite ready.

Why might she think it’s not your time yet?

  • Your boss may feel you’re not enough of a team player. This trait is important if you want a promotion that moves you up to management.
  • Your supervisor feels that you don’t handle stressful situations well or that you’re too much of a people pleaser, and wants you to “mature” a bit more.
  • And so on.
  1. You didn’t show your boss the value of a promotion.

Just because you work hard and go the extra mile in your current position in no way qualifies you for a promotion. A promotion always entails more responsibility, more “skin in the game,” so to speak. So what has all that effort provided your boss, in addition to simple hard work?

Did you bring in more clients? Did save the company more money? Did you make the department more efficient? In other words, what tangible results did your work produce?

  1. There’s no benefit to your boss.

Yes, this appears selfish on her part, but in order to get a promotion, your boss needs to get something out of it. It must be something that benefits her, personally. For example, by promoting you, does a particular goal or project she wants completed get completed because of your particular skills?

If you’ve been working hard, providing terrific and provable value to your employer and have asked for a promotion to no avail, it may be time to move on. Helpmates can help. Take a look at our current job opportunities. Yes, many of our openings are temporary, but many are regular, full-time career positions.  Plus, temporary positions often can advance your career.

Contact the Helpmates office nearest you today to apply.

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