Dear J.T. & Dale: I've been having trouble getting interviews, even though I am highly qualified for the positions I'm applying for. I'm attaching my resume and cover letter, hoping you can tell me what I'm doing wrong. — Tate J.T.: Your resume is impressive, but your current cover letter is what some would call "old-school," in that it boasts about your strengths and accomplishments. This can be a turn-off these days, especially among younger managers. They feel they can determine if you are a fit based on your resume, and it grates on them if they feel you are overselling yourself in the cover letter. So, instead of talking about you, more and more employers want a cover letter that expresses how you've come to be interested in the company and what it does, and what you like about it. Dale: I just experienced this. I'm part of a new company called Agreement House that offers mediation services (that is, guided negotiation to resolve business disputes). We needed help in one specific area, and I ran an ad describing in detail what we were looking for. We received more than 100 responses, and I picked half a dozen people to interview. I wasn't consciously looking for people who focused on the company instead of themselves, but as I look back, it turned out that each of those selected for an interview took the time to learn enough about our company to write an original and relevant cover letter, one that convinced me they would be a help to us. J.T.: That's a perfect example. When you shift your emphasis from "you" to "them," you get employers thinking in terms of YOU being part of US. Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten's latest book is "(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success" (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
October 23, 2009