Post # 1
Hey bees! I’ve never posted about anything non-wedding related here, but since there is a Career category and I’ve seen other posts, I’d figure I’d put this out here 🙂
I’m applying for my absolute dream job, which I was so excited to discover existed, let alone that I technically qualify for it. I say “technically” because while on reading the job description I feel that I absolutely would be a great fit for this work (especially because I’ve been trying to do it in some form independently for years- it’s a non-profit, and I’ve been a lifelong activist), when I looked through the staff bios on the website, a lot of the people with the same job I’m going for happen to have advanced degrees or years or very specific experience. Neither of those things are required, but it did give me a bit of imposter syndrome. I truly believe that I would be a great addition to the team, and would love so much to do the work and work with people who share my passion. But I’m concerned that if held up to resumes that can boast more credentials, mine might be discarded off-hand before I have the chance to show them who I am and why I’d be a great fit. A lot of the things that make up my aptitude for this position are not things that fit on a standard format resume, you know?
So, I’ve decided to pull an Elle Woods and include a short video (5-7 min) in the email with my resume and cover letter. Considering that part of the job is being a presenter, I think that it will be appropriate and will help me show them who I am a bit more. I’m currently having trouble getting it under 12 min, and that’s cutting A LOT, because this really is something I’ve cared about and that’s been a part of my life in so many ways since childhood, but I will make sure it’s short and sweet before I send it.
But I know that a great cover letter is my other best bet. I’ve never really needed a cover letter for any jobs I’ve held before, and I really want to make sure I get this right. My goal with all of this is just to score an interview- given that opportunity, I hope I’d be able to convey all of the reasons I’m made to do this work. If you’re an employer, what do you find compelling in a cover letter? Or have you ever written a stellar cover letter that got you the job?
I can find a lot of basic advice online, but some of it is contradictory and I also just really want to make sure this stands out.
Thank you for your time bees!
Post # 2
Honestly, if a video isn’t a required part of the application, I wouldn’t do it — I feel like it could do more harm than good, especially if you haven’t yet spoken to anyone to find out more about the job and what exactly it entails, and especially at 5-7 min long (which would probably feel like an eternity for those who actually click the link).
If you’re set on doing it, I would just prepare for it not being watched at all and would make sure all other aspects of your resume/cover letter are solid.
Post # 3
bluejaybride : as a former hiring manager I’ll be real with you – I struggled to get through this post and I definitely wouldn’t watch a video. Be clear, concise, and specific – I’ve got 100 other resumes to read if you don’t grab my attention in the first 3 sentences I’m moving on.
Post # 4
TheGridMonster : LilliV :
I see your point, and have thought about that. But as I’m just attaching it to the email, I’m hoping it’s something they’ll click if they’re interested. The job description is quite thorough about exactly what the job entails, and one of the things it emphasizes is having a solid presenting style and being comfortable with public speaking, as well as confidence. So I think that this will give me the opportunity to show that a bit off the bat, and help me to stand out, and hope it will come off as creative, confident, and initiative-taking. I do plan on including a caveat in the email along the lines of “I’ve also attached a short video to aid in your consideration. As this was not specifically asked for, if my inclusion of the video is disuading to you then I ask you to please just disregard it- the last thing I want to do is disqualify myself.”
Regardless, you’re right that it might not be watched, and that is why I’m asking this question- I want to make sure my cover letter is compelling enough on it’s own just in case! 🙂
So as for the cover letter, what most grabs your attention in those first three sentences?
Post # 5
I would not recommend a video, unless creative use of media is a core responsiblity of the role and a strength of the organizations.
For the cover letter:
– 3-4 paragraph structure with paragraph 1) ~3 sentences intro/context/name dropping (if you’ve met someone in hte organization that had an impression on you and you are confident would speak favorably of you, name drop them); 2) opening sentence explaining the 3 strengths you bring to the table (e.g. communicating for results, leadership, analytical problem solving) and then back up sentences SHOWING (not telling) how you delivered impact through each strength.
Don’t: “I have strong communication skills and was often responsible for presenting to different audiences of varioius levels”
Do: “I delivered a 6 month change management program on XYZ by aligning stakeholders from executive level to frontline staff through frequent workshops, formal steering committee presentations, and one-on-one meetings”
Paragraph 3: if you have extensive knowledge about the organization, drop in 2-3 sentences on the org’s mission, strenghts, profile (whatever) and what you find impressive about it. (optional – only do this if genuine and don’t come across as brown-nosing/flattering)
last paragraph: wrap up and next steps. 1 sentence summary of strengths being a good fit, 1 sentence on why the company is great, 1 sentence thanking them for their time and looking forward to discussing the role in more detail.
Remember, the cover letter should be action-oriented (not descriptive) and convey impact/results that you’ve delivered. Sell yourself using direct language (no flouncy/esoteric wordiness).
Maximum one page (including formal address and date on top and signature at bottom).
ETA: This is advice for standard business professional cover letter writing. If the organization is very creative focused or grassrootes – you may want to drop some of the formality (e.g. formatting and letter structuring).
Post # 6
bluejaybride : I again recommend against the video, but if you are gung-ho on including make sure it’s maximum 2 minutes (seriously, they’ll have made up their mind in that time and 5-7 minutes…nobody got time for that).
second, if you include it, stand by it. No wishy washy “I’m attaching but I’m nervous about attaching, I’m not sure if I should have attached…please be nice to me”.
Last, please don’t attach a video unless this is a specific competency core to the organization!
Post # 7
Keep it short and specific. If I’m reviewing it, I want to be able to read it quickly and see how your skills relate to the job I am looking to fill.
Judging by the “caveat” you included above, wordiness might be a challenge for you. Focus on short, to the point sentences. It should be less than 1 page and only a few sentences per paragraph. Use for format TravelingBride31 suggested.
I’m not sure about the advisability of a vidoe, but I doubt anyone will watch one over a few minutes, unless it was required. If I opened the file and saw it was 12 minutes, I wouldn’t watch it.
Post # 8
I agree with TravelingBride31 and will an add an additional idea on how to show more than tell:
Incorporate the key skills and responsibilities from the job description, using their words or phrases, and connect those key words to specific experiences from your background. Even if you don’t have experience doing this job, you should be able to make connections like, “I’ve developed Skill X through my experience with Position or Project Y, which has prepared me to take on Job Responsibility Z.” Your ability to convince the hiring manager of those connections is what will keep you in the pack with applicants that have more directly transferable experience or credentials.
Do you have any professional experience with giving presentations or leading meetings? Or similar experience from volunteer community outreach projects? Honestly a couple of conference or workshop presentation citations in a resume would do much more than a video for most hiring managers, unless the video is of an actual presentation recorded at a conference or event.
Post # 9
TravelingBride31 : Thank you, that’s all really helpful!
I want to give a bit more context. First of all, future posters, please just disregard the bit about including a video. I hear you pps, and I’ll definitely be reconsidering that. I only mentioned that to give context to the email I intended to send with that as a supplment, but since I am now reconsidering including it at all, and if I do I know I can’t count on it being watched, what I’m really looking for here is insight on composing a stellar, stand-out cover letter.
As for the job- it involves working with kids and young adults globally to prevent violence. They do not require a degree or anything, but I do worry that when held next to someone with a Masters in International Relations or something (like some of the people who currently hold this position), my resume won’t stand out, and I won’t get the opportunity to share the reasons I would be great for this job if dismissed before given an interview. I do have so many of the things they are looking for, and some of it can be quantified in direct action terms as you’ve said, like experience with group facilitation, volunteer work, and fundraising experience. I have mainly worked as a nanny for the last 10 years, so I have a ton of experience with children and young teens and the skills related to working with them. But many of the other things they’re looking for are harder to put into a standard resume or to quantify in a cover letter, like feminst values, tenacity and adaptability, experience as a survivor of violence, and strong passion. I do have years of college education relevant to the work as well, though due to financial reasons I had to leave school before acquiring my degree. I’ve however stayed up to date on these issues specifically through extensive indepenent study, and have even worked for years on starting a non-profit that does this exact work, including writing my own programs for kids and a blog (it’s just that I have yet to manage getting either of those off the ground), both precisely related to this work, which speaks to my commitment to this cause.
Post # 10
bluejaybride : ehhh…not crazy about your caveat. Just skip it. The key things that stick out to me are something about my company – show me that you wrote a letter to ME about THIS JOB, not just slapped a generic cover letter together.
Post # 11
TravelingBride31 : Noted! That all makes sense, thank you!
Post # 12
LadyBear : Wordiness is certainly my biggest issue. I have a LOT to say because I have built a lot of my life around this cause, and I’m deeply concerned that in cutting down my letter, I’ll end up omitting the thing that might have caught their interest. Since I don’t know which thing that might specifically be, I’m having a hard time narrowing things down. That’s said, I do know that the letter must be no more than one page. And if I do submit a video, it absolutely won’t be the 12 minute version haha. Thank you for your input, taken under consideration!
girlfriendphd : Thank you, that’s helpful! I do have relevant experience job wise, but as I’m not sure it would be as much professional experience as others might have, I’m hoping to win them over with my passion and personal experiences. Both of those things are asked for in the job description, and I know that’s where my greatest strengths are, so I want to find a way to convey them in a letter that’s still professional.
Post # 13
LilliV : Thank you! That makes sense. Unfortuntely I cannot for the life of me find the name of the person who will be reading this, so I can’t address it to a specific name, but it is very much targeted to this organization. I’ve dreamt of getting involved with this org for years and getting involved with them has been a personal goal of mine since I learned about them. I actually found the job when I went onto the site to look into volunteer opportunities now that I was planning on living in one area long enough to do so (in the past I’d moved around a lot and the volunteer work would involve implementing work locally, and I didn’t want to start anything I wouldn’t be able to follow through with for long). But I was thrilled to discover that while there are currently no volunteer opportunities, they are actually hiring for the EXACT thing I want to do!
Post # 14
You’re getting a lot of good advice, so i’m just going to urge you to listen to the PP’s.
Skip the video
Keep your cover letter concise, and relevant. Go through anything you can related to the job and company. Job description, company bio. Try to mirror the way they talk, their values, and job duties to directly relate your cover letter and resume to be as close to an exact fit as possible.
IMO (and i’ve worked previously in recruiting), try to keep your cover letter and resume to 1 page each.
Post # 15
beevincent18 : Thank you! I will review the site again, that makes sense. I’ve been a supporter of this org for years and am fairly familiar with their “voice”, and I feel I fit really well with their culture. Even the tone of the job description really fits the way I think about this work. So I will take care to make sure to convey that as closely as possible in my letter, that’s a great point! And yes, I will keep it short and sweet.