Yes, Cover Letters Still Matter: They Can Help You Get an Interview

Cover letters, so old school and completely unnecessary, right?

NO!!!

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A well-written cover letter actually can help you get the job. Why? Because it can highlight your great interest in the opportunity. More importantly, it can showcase how you can help an employer solve its problems (which, remember, is why employers hire people).

What’s more, a cover letter actually  allows you to do something that you really can’t do until you’re sitting in a job interviews:

Ask for an interview!

Without a cover letter the only thing you’re sending an employer is your resume. (Sometimes not even that, if you’re applying online and the application is a form you fill out that doesn’t ask for – or allow you to include – a resume.)

Resumes used to put in black and white your contact info, your education, your skills and the jobs you’ve had. While you should write it such that it emphasizes your successes and the things you did for employers, it’s not a document in which you can ask for an interview.

Here’s the best part: simply asking for an interview in your cover letter actually increases your chances of getting an interview!

How to ask for an interview.

Don’t forget, in the body of your cover letter you need express your great interest in what the employer does and how you think you can help the company achieve its goals.

You do so by mentioning one or two things that you’ve done in the past that show how you have the skills, knowledge and experience to do so:

  • As a line manager in the Cerritos warehouse of my employer, I made it a point to get to know my team members personally, honoring birthdays, anniversaries, children’s accomplishments and so on. My own manager told me I appeared to “make work fun” for my team. Retention numbers also back this fact up: my manager told me attrition on the line declined by 15 percent – the most of any year – after my first full year on the job.”
  • During my two years as a CSR, I’ve been commended regularly by my manager for my efficiency as well as my customer reviews. My manager particularly has commented on my calm handling angry customers.

At the end of the cover letter (your concluding paragraph), you end by asking for an interview:

  • I’m excited about this opportunity as (position) with (company) and would enjoy the chance of meeting with you to discuss it more and – more importantly – the chance to discuss my experience and skills and how I can provide value to you. Please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX or email me at name@emailaddress.com to schedule an interview.
  • Thank you for taking the time to consider my application. I would like to interview with you to discuss how my skills and background can be of service to (company) as (position). My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX and my email address is name@emailaddress.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Are you looking for work? Take a look at our current temporary, direct-hire and temp-to-hire job opportunities. If you find one or more that look interesting, follow the listing’s directions.

Even if you don’t see anything that looks appealing, register with the Helpmates branch office nearest you: we’re constantly getting new assignments, some of which are filled before we ever have time to list them on our website.

Preparing for a Final Job Interview

Congratulations! You have made it past the first round of interviews for a job opening. You now face the prospect of a final round. How should you prepare for it? This next round will be a little different from the first, so you need to change your preparation a little to get ready for it. Here are a few tips.

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  1. Look back on your first interview

Consider how you performed during your first interview. What questions did you answer well and what questions do you feel you could have done a better job with? This will give you some indication about what you need to work on and how you can improve responses that fell short.

  1. Expect more detailed questions

The questions in the final interview are likely to go into more depth on your technical skills. There is also a greater chance that you will get more behavioral types of questions. You will be asked what you would do in different situations, what actions you would take, or how you would go about solving a particular problem.

And you may get more questions related to cultural fit. The interviewers will want to know if you are someone with whom they can work.

  1. Prepare to talk salary

You may be asked what you are looking for in terms of salary, so you should be prepared to give a range. This will require some research. You should find out what the salary is in your industry for this type of position. There are sites such as Payscale.com and Glassdoor.com that can give you the information you need.

  1. A broader perspective

In a final interview, you are more likely to have a member of senior management present. He or she will likely be interested in more comprehensive, broad-spectrum issues that impact the entire company, rather than the nuts-and-bolts aspect of the job.

So you need to be prepared to talk about the value you can add to the company as a whole. Learn about the company’s goals and mission, the problems it faces, and give input on ways the company can reach those goals and solve their problems. Be able to look at things from a big picture perspective.

  1. Some possible final round questions

Because there may be different people present for the final interview, you may get some questions you were asked in the initial round. Others are common in final round interviews and could include:

Tell me about yourself.

You probably got this question during the first interview. But you may get it again at the final interview from a senior executive who was not present during the first one. Keep your answer brief, focusing on recent accomplishments and why you are applying for the job.

What are your career goals?

The purpose of this question is to gauge how your ambitions fit with the goals of the company. The hiring manager or other senior executive will want to determine if you are a good fit with the culture of the company. So, your answer should show that you have ambition but that your goals align with those of the job.

Are you interviewing anywhere else?

Honesty is the best policy in responding to this question. If you are interviewing elsewhere or are expecting other job offers, let them know. This may actually enhance your standing with the hiring manager because he or she will see that you are coveted by other employers.

However, if at the time of the interview you have no other offers you need to be honest about that as well. Don’t pretend that you do. If you begin with a fabrication like this, it will likely only lead to more falsehoods later to support it, which in the long run could get you into more trouble.

Is there anything else you want to ask us about?

This is often the last question at a final interview. You can use it as an opportunity to expand on previous responses that may have been a little off the mark.

Ready for a new job in 2021? Take a look at Helpmates’ current job openings and apply for any you feel are a good fit. You also may contact the branch office nearest you for more information.

The Absolutely, Positively Right Way to Leave a Job

You are at a point where you are giving serious consideration to leaving your job. It could be that the job no longer challenges you, that it has become routine. Or you’ve hit a dead end – there is no avenue for advancement. Or you simply cannot get along with your supervisor. Or you’re just burned out.

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Whatever the reason, there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to quit your job. Here is the right way to do it.

  1. Think carefully

The first step is to think about why you want to quit. All of the reasons listed above are valid. But there are others that are a bit shakier. If you’re angry about being chastised by your supervisor or colleague or because you were passed over for a certain project, these are not good reasons to leave your job. Take a little time to cool off before you make any rash decisions that you might regret later.

Consider if there are alternatives to leaving your job, such as transferring to another department or asking for more responsibility, or working out problems with a coworker.

Also, career counselors advise having another job lined up before leaving your current position. It is much more difficult to find work when you are unemployed because this still carries a stigma with employers.

  1. Letter of resignation

Because of its purpose, the language used in this document should be more formal. You should use the full name and title of your supervisor.

Your resignation letter doesn’t have to be long. It should state your intention to leave, when your last day will be, your reason for leaving, and an expression of appreciation for the opportunity to work at the company. You could also include a few positive remarks about your experience.

  1. Giving notice

This should be done face-to-face, not through email. It is customary to give two weeks’ notice, but this can vary. Your supervisor may ask you to stay longer for various reasons. If this is the case, you should agree to the extended period to maintain a positive relationship. You don’t want to burn any bridges. It’s also possible that you may be asked to leave immediately, so you need to be ready for this. You should also suggest a transition plan for transferring your assignments.

What you don’t want to do is give vent to any vindictiveness over your frustrations about the job or interactions with other people at the company. This will accomplish nothing. You also want to maintain good relationships at the company.

After you have given notice in person, then submit your letter of resignation.

  1. Odds and ends

Make a list of the tasks you need to take care of before you go. This includes things such as cleaning out your files, finishing up any outstanding assignments, and so on.

Delete all personal information on your computer. You should do this before giving notice in case you are asked to leave immediately.

Put together notes covering all of your duties and responsibilities, as well as the status of your current projects and any background information needed to complete them if you are unable to. Get contact information from your coworkers.

  1. Do good work

It may be difficult to concentrate during the final weeks or days you are still at the company. But you need to maintain your professionalism, and that means continuing to turn in the best work you can. This will certainly leave a good impression on your supervisor and coworkers.

Wondering if there’s a better job opportunity waiting for you? Check out Helpmates’ job opportunities. If you see one or more that look interesting, either contact the office nearest you, or follow the posting’s application instructions.

The Skills in Demand in a Post-COVID World

The Skills in Demand in a Post-COVID World

While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed pretty much everything in our world in these past three or four months, one thing that remains the same – in many ways – are the skills employers will be looking for now and for the foreseeable future.

One would think that since so much has changed, so would desired job skills. But that’s not really the case.  What’s more, most don’t even require learning new skills; you probably already possess one or more them. (And what a relief that is!)

A few in-demand skills include:

  • Creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, an innovative mind-set.

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No schooling needed for this in-demand skill! Companies that were able to adapt to the new business reality have survived with relative ease compared to their competitors.

For example, restaurants that saw the opportunity in take-out/delivery services now certainly have a leg up as the economy reopens than do their competitors who completely shuttered.

An even better example? Mercedes-AMG-HPP moved quickly from making automobiles to making ventilators.

If you’re the type of person who sees opportunity in a challenge, who likes solving problems in new ways, and if you can show this trait to employers, you’ll be a stand-out compared to other candidates.

  • Emotional intelligence.

Most of us are, well, not ourselves right now.  Anxiety. Worry about our own and loved ones’ health. Fear about finding a good job. SO MUCH STRESS!

Candidates who have the ability to “read” others’ emotions and deal with them in caring ways are always in demand, yet especially so now.

  • Leadership.

This actually is related to emotional intelligence in that the best leaders usually possess it in spades. And if ever employers needed workers with leadership mindsets, it’s now. And you don’t have to be in management to let your leadership skills shine. Instead, anyone who can inspire co-workers, lead teammates in a collaboration project, etc. is going to be highly desirable to employers.

  • Digital skills, including coding.

Digital skills have become even more critical during the pandemic as many people have started working remotely, on computers.

Coding, in fact, is a highly desirable skill set, one that pays very well (high five figures is common).

If you don’t yet have digital skills, you can get them via credentialing online certification programs, many of which are offered by California colleges and universities. UC Berkeley has an online extension program in coding, for example, open to anyone anywhere in the world. Some coding experience is helpful but not necessary.

Put your current leadership, emotional intelligence and creative thinking skills to work now by taking a look at Helpmates’ current job opportunities. If one or more of them look interesting to you, follow the posting’s application instructions or contact the Helpmates branch nearest you for more information.

The Job Search Has Changed: Now and for the Foreseeable Future

If you’re in the midst of a job search, you’ve no doubt learned that all interviews now are being conducted via video.

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While this will remain the status quo for the foreseeable future, we also believe video interviewing will remain a large part of the job search process even after the pandemic wanes and social distancing/stay-at-home restrictions begin to lessen.

What’s more – and this truly is unfortunate – as tens of thousands of employees have been let go in recent weeks from Southern California employers, job seekers are going to be competing with a considerable amount of other people looking for work.

Many people – used to having recruiters beat down the door to get to them during the recent (as in February!) war-for-talent era – have never looked for work during a recession and the “new normal” definitely will take some getting used to. (Not to mention the considerable extra work it will take to land a job.)

Times are tough, but so are you

Yes, the above is quite a saccharine ditty. But what’s your alternative? Falling into a puddle of woe for months? Yes, have a terrific wailing wallow for a few days, but the longer you stay there the harder it will be to get up.

You must get tough! And soon!

How the job search has changed and how you – tough guy – can make it work for you

You will need to stand out more than ever now

Because you’ll be competing with so many others for jobs, you need to sit with yourself and figure out how you’re better than other candidates. Are you the sales person with a fantastic close rate? Are you the distribution selector with the fastest selection rate? Are you the customer service rep with the above-average customer satisfaction rating? Have you won an award for the project you completed?

You need to place that fact at the very top of your resume! (And make sure you can back it up with actual statistics or data.)

You must show intense interest in the job. Intense!

You don’t want to grovel or plead. That’s not what we mean. Instead:

  • Research a ton about the company so that you can say something like “I heard you were planning on purchasing such and such. Has that been put on hold now?”
  • Show true excitement when you talk about the opportunity. (Especially how your particular skills will help the employer reach its goals.)

 

You need to understand that responses from employers will take a lot longer. And they may not be as “nice” to you.

Whether you’re waiting to hear from them about an interview, or waiting to hear if you got the job, hiring managers and recruiters are overwhelmed right now. In addition, the “power” now lies in their hands, not yours. No more “war for talent” for the foreseeable future (unless you have skills that remain in great demand, such as in healthcare).

And with this power, unfortunately, comes some unpleasant behaviors: ghosting, rudeness, etc. Just be prepared for it – it usually doesn’t happen – and never “give as good as you got” yourself.

How can we – the really nice – recruiters at Helpmates help you find work?

Your First Job Will Not Be Your Dream Job

Coming out of college, you may picture in your mind the kind of job you would love doing – your dream job. It is one that pays you lots of money, is challenging, enjoyable, exciting. Unfortunately, the odds of finding such a job right out of the gate are very slim, for a number of reasons.

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You are still wet behind the ears, so to speak. You still need to gain experience and the proper skill set that will enable you to perform the kinds of challenging jobs you seek. Your first job may involve a good deal of grunt work, learning the ropes.

You may feel a little disdainful of this kind of work, after spending thousands of dollars and four years of your life earning a degree to prepare you for the working world. But you shouldn’t. It will help you to gain the experience and skills needed to take the next step in your career.

A second reason your first job is unlikely to be a dream job is simply because of a disconnect between what you imagine and reality. We all have an image of what a job will be like, but it seldom comports with real life. It is usually rather vague because we simply do not have enough information about the day-to-day work involved. And this is true even if you have talked with people in the profession. How can you be certain the first job you get is your dream job if you haven’t worked at any other job before?

Finding that dream job, determining your purpose in life and what you are truly passionate about, is more of a journey than anything else. In the beginning, you really don’t know enough about the working world to be so sure about your dream job. A career progression is about exploration. You may take a job you think you will like but find that you enjoy doing something else more. And this may happen several times during your career.

Moreover, there are many things that go into making a dream job other than just what is contained in the job description. These are factors that can make for work that is challenging and fulfilling or something much worse, such as the kind of supervisor you have, your coworkers, and the company culture.

Your destination is a way off. It is something you cannot even see when you take your first “real,” professional job. Your first employment should be looked at as a learning experience. Use it to find out all you can about your industry, your role in it, your company, and about yourself. Use it to begin the process of getting clear in your own mind what you want to do.

According to some business experts, your first job can be considered a good one if you have a boss who is not unreasonable, you fit in with the company culture, you look forward to going to work in the morning, and it provides you with a learning opportunity.

Today, when technology is advancing so rapidly, career experts say it is unwise to focus on a particular job, but rather on planning a career. After all, some jobs that exist now will be gone in the future. The better course of action is to think strategically about career development and look at your first job as just the initial step in your career, a place where you can begin to acquire the knowledge and skills and meet the people who will enable you to move to the next step.

If you’re ready to move on from your first job out of college – or if you’ve recently graduated and are still looking for that first opportunity, take a look at our current openings and, if one or more look promising, follow application instructions or call the Helpmates branch location nearest you.

Dealing with an Over-talkative Co-Worker

What’s by far the best thing about work? Engaging with colleagues! Several studies have found that the thing just about all of us like about work the most is the camaraderie and engagement going to work each day provides us as we interact with colleagues and customers.

In other words: we often enjoy work because of our co-workers.  Humans, in short, are people persons!

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Yet as much as you enjoy chatting with friends there usually is at least one colleague who just…takes the talking up a notch to where it becomes too much of a good thing. As in, you have a hard time getting work done because a certain work buddy is always stopping by with the latest work news, news of the world, personal news, and so on.

Take a look below to learn how to deal with an over-talkative co-worker professionally and kindly.

  • Remember, chatting is good.

Talking with colleagues helps you build professionally personal bonds. If you want to take  the relationship to a true personal level – that is, be friends beyond work – that’s up to both of you. It’s not necessary to become best buds but daily interaction in a friendly way is important – and makes going to work enjoyable.

  • Always be polite when you want to disengage – or not engage at all.

If a colleague comes up and starts talking without asking if you have the time, politely let him know you are on a deadline or are deep in the throes of something and could this wait until you have more time to give your friend your full attention? Say something like “I’d love to hear more, but I need to get XX done now.” NEVER fib, saying you need to prep for a conversation with your boss in 15 minutes without really having a confab with your boss in 15 minutes.

  • Wear headphones or ear buds when you really want to concentrate.

You don’t need to actually listen to anything, but wearing headphones has become something of a universal “do not disturb” sign in the workplace.

Important nice-guy/gal tip: don’t jam the headphones on as soon as you see Chatty Charlie headed your way. He’ll no doubt see it and his feelings will be hurt. Instead, make sure to put your headphones on every time you need to do concentrated work.

  • You’re wearing your headphones but the colleague interrupts you anyway.

If this happens, explain your need for concentration and ask if your colleague needs help with a work-related problem that can’t wait or if he has other truly work-related news. If he says yes, determine if it really is important. If it isn’t critical for RIGHT NOW, ask if you two could schedule a conversation for a bit later.

In other words, ascertain if it really is important to talk right then because sometimes it, well, is.

  • If your friend doesn’t get the “do not disturb” message for non-critical conversation, it’s time for “the talk.”

Gently explain how much you enjoy speaking with your friend, but that there are sometimes you need to concentrate. You value his friendship, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and that’s concentrate on something.

If your friend balks or is affronted, understand that your request is a legitimate one: work is for working after all. If your friend doesn’t understand that, it’s on him, not you and it pretty much shows a lack of maturity and/or self-centeredness one his part.

If he persists or if he starts teasing, cajoling, whining, or even bullying you somewhat over this – and especially if the friend still interrupts you without concern for your need to concentrate – it may be time to speak with your own supervisor about it or even HR.

Are you looking for new work friends with whom to share quips at the water cooler? Then take a look at some of our current job opportunities and if one or more appeal to you, follow the application directions or contact the Helpmates’ branch office nearest you.

Getting Your Job-Search Mojo Back

Looking for work is hard and it certainly isn’t a night out on the town with your friends. It’s hard and a slog whether you’re looking while employed or whether you’re unemployed, making it quite easy to lose your “passion” for the endeavor.

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But persist you must, especially if you’re currently out of work. Here’s how to get that job-hunt mojo back!

  • Talk yourself up to others and…to yourself!

If you want to hear no all the time, look for work, right? So many “no thank you’s” pile up. And pile up. Again and again and again. It’s no wonder you start doubting yourself. And if you’re looking for work because you’ve been laid off or even fired, the negative talk to yourself can build exponentially with each negative response.

Here’s the good and bad news: we are what we believe we are. As in, how we talk to ourselves truly matters. Talk trash about yourself, you’ll feel like trash. Instead, take inventory of your better qualities (and no matter who you are, you have great qualities) and make sure you communicate these to people with whom you network and in resumes/covers letters and during job interviews.

  • Show employers how these qualities – as well as your skills and experience – benefit them.

Sure, you may be great at “reading people,” but that doesn’t say anything about how that helps an employer. For example, does “reading people” mean you’ve discovered you’re great at sales? If so, give concrete examples of how you’ve overcome some pretty solid objections and landed a big sale.

Remember: whenever you’re looking for work you need to understand and be able to articulate how your qualities and skills solve an employer’s problems.

  • To-do lists and set schedules are your friends.

The more you look for work, the faster you’ll find employment. After all, the more people with whom you connect and then ask them others with whom you might want to talk, the more informational interviews you’ll receive. The more informational interviews you receive, the more real job interviews you’ll land. The more interviews you go on, the more job offers you’ll receive. And then – oh, then! – you well may find that you have the “problem” of choosing between two or even three great job offers.

But you don’t connect with people by merely scrolling the job boards. Even applying for jobs on job boards won’t do you much good: 85 percent or more of all jobs are found via networking. And unless you have daily job-search goals/to-do list, and unless you actually adhere to your to-do list, your job search won’t move nearly as fast as it could.

So keep the positive talk going,  set a work schedule for your “job” of looking for work, and make sure you connect with real people in real life (or at least via email and phone) and you’ll start seeing results.

Make sure you bring your skills, education and positive self-talk to Helpmates by contacting the branch office nearest you and setting up an interview with one of our recruiters. And/or: take a look at our current job openings. If one or more look interesting, follow the description’s application instructions.

When You Have to Give Tough Love at Work

No matter if you’ve just become a manager or supervisor or you’ve been serving as one for a few years, there’s going to come a time – perhaps sooner than you think – where you’re going to have to provide some tough feedback to one of your team members.

When do such times crop up? When an employee is late in meeting a deadline. He rarely takes initiative. She made a mistake that could have been avoided. He has poor time-management skills. Her overall performance suddenly has taken a dive.

Take a look below for suggestions on what to say to these members of your team when warranted.

(Important note: always have these conversations in private – and private means in an office with the door closed, not huddled at the employee’s work station.)

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  • She misses a deadline.

Do you know why you weren’t able to meet the deadline/the project was late? Whenever you believe you’re going to be late with something or miss a deadline, I prefer that you let me know as soon as you think this may happen. That way we can see if we can find a solution to whatever is keeping you from completing a project on time.

  • He has overall poor time-management skills.

I’ve noticed that you tend to struggle with time management. When you’re late or behind it effects everyone because your colleagues often can’t do something until you do your part. Can you tell me why you’re struggling? Would meeting with me every morning for a few minutes help you prioritize your tasks  and goals for the day? I’d also like to encourage you to read [this book; these blog posts] on time management. They have many great strategies you can start implementing immediately.

  • She just doesn’t take initiative.

I’ve noticed that you haven’t been able to get yourself started on some tasks/projects you’ve been assigned.  Can you tell me why, in confidence? Is there anything I can do to help? Are you feeling overwhelmed and perhaps need to learn project management?

I know you are capable of doing this, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked you to. Perhaps if we met each morning briefly for a couple of weeks to discuss what needs to be done would be helpful to you?

  • He made a mistake that could have been easily avoided.

No one likes to make mistakes and I know you didn’t want to make this one. What’s done is done and we’re not going to dwell on it. What do you think you could have done to avoid it?  What are you going to do differently from here on out to make sure you don’t make a similar mistake again?

  • Her performance has been declining.

I’ve noticed that you haven’t been working at your usual high level and so I wanted to touch base with you to see  if there’s something I can help you with. If you want/need to talk to me about something, please know that I’m always here to listen, talk and act as a sounding board. Do you feel comfortable talking to me so that I can know what’s going on and together we can work to solve it?

Does your Southern California company need some more terrific people to manage? Let Helpmates help! We can source, vet and place skilled and reliable workers for your temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire opportunities. Contact the branch nearest you.

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