The next time you prepare a job application, don’t hastily dash off a generic, sloppy cover letter in the last minute like most of your competitors will.  Instead, take the time and trouble to tailor a concise, error-free cover letter to your target job. Why? Because a great cover letter will probably make a great first impression to hiring managers and help you land an interview. One way to craft an A-plus cover letter is to include in it a fast-read table that proves that you meet the requirements of your target job. Here’s how to do so: Identify the…

1234 Yellow Brick Road City, State Zip Code June 4, 2016 Mr. John Doe Personnel Specialist U.S. Mint 801 9th Street NW Washington DC 20220 Dear Mr. Doe: Subject: Marketing Manager Position (HR-503-78) As a Marketing Specialist at ABC Marketing Corps since, 2012, I have been tracking the U.S. Mint’s record-breaking sales and marketing successes. I would welcome the opportunity to contribute to the Mint’s innovative marketing strategies.  YOUR NEEDS  MY QUALIFICATIONS Knowledge of business principles Seven years of experience as Marketing Specialist at ABC Marketing Corps managing sales accounts valued at $8.45 million annually, and a B.A. in Business…

If you’ve ever started a new job where you knew no one, you may have felt like a stranger in a strange land for some time. But when you hire new employees, you can probably transform them from strangers to integrated productive members of your team relatively quickly if you introduce them to their jobs thoughtfully and carefully. During the weeks before your new employee’s start date, make a concerted effort to inventory procedures, terms, acronyms, the nuances of key relationships with other organizations and lessons learned that you now rely on but would be helpful for your newcomer to…

The first rule about checking references of job applicants is to check references; don’t forgo reference checks on the assumption that speaking to a reference will automatically be analogous to speaking to the president of your applicant’s fan club. In reality, even enthusiastic references are often surprisingly candid about an applicant’s limitations. What’s more, reference checks may be the best way to flag professionals who are skilled at winning over hiring managers but can’t recruit good references because they have poor track records. A case in point: I know a mean-spirited scientist who had made it to the final cut…

If you’re a manager, your staff is one of your most valuable assets. You should screen applicants for each new opening on your staff to find the best applicant as carefully as panners sift through silt to find gold. A key component of your screening process is the interview stage, and here are some tips to help find the shine: Consider designing each interview as a more conversational, free-flowing exchange than a traditionally stilted interview. After all, the more relaxed an applicant is during an interview, the more forthcoming he will probably be. What’s more, canned questions are likely to…

As the saying goes, “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.” For your work life, this means: The more you document an important event, the easier it will be for you to prove that it happened. Examples of the types of professional events that warrant careful documentation include the following: Your victories: Maintain a “success file” for storing documents that validate your success, such as your publications, positive news coverage of your work and records of impressive metrics that reflect your work. Also store positive evaluations of your work, such as annual reviews, evaluations of trainings you delivered, and…

My December column presented common job interview questions accompanied by examples of unimpressive (but common) answers and impressive answers to those questions. Some more: How do you handle stress? Unimpressive Answer: Any answer that reveals emotional weakness. (Don’t mention your stash of prescription tranquilizers!) Impressive Answer: Say that you get the job done and maintain grace under pressure no matter what—and that your references will support your answer. Cite your multitasking techniques, such as prioritizing, tracking progress, delegating if you have a staff, going the extra mile, and just taking a few deep breaths, when necessary. Describe the types of…

Most job-seekers leave job interviews feeling like they have just endured the working world’s version of enhanced interrogation. But you can reduce the torture of your next job interview and significantly improve your performance. Before your next interview, prepare answers to questions that you will probably be asked by interviewers, and role-play your answers with your trusted advisers. You will thereby boost your confidence and increase the wow-power of your interviews. To help you do so, here are good answers to some common interview questions. Tell me about yourself. Unimpressive answer: A rambling autobiography that includes irrelevant professional and personal…

Too many students and recent grads waste their summers flipping burgers when they could be working interesting, career-boosting jobs. But in this tough job market, how can young people—go-getters though they may be—afford to toss away their spatulas for meaningful jobs? By landing dynamic federal summer internships. Granted: Some federal internships are dominated by busywork. But one of the best kept secrets in government is that dozens of federal internship programs—located throughout the U.S.—are specially designed to offer incomparable opportunities to schmooze with power brokers, gain resume-stuffing experience, receive mentoring, network and earn competitive salaries. Some summer federal internship programs…

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