Artisan Blog

Are Cover Letters Necessary?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

cover-letter-needed

If a job listing asks for a cover letter, you might wonder why is a hiring manager asking for it? Will anyone actually reading these?

Yes. Yes, they are. And they’re reading them for several good reasons.

First off, every part of an application needs to be as strong as possible. If your resume is a little weaker than you’d like (maybe you’re applying for a more senior role or a job within a different industry than you’ve experienced), a cover letter could provide additional information to a hiring manager about your capabilities.

Secondly, if a job listing requires a cover letter, it’s one way to see whether a candidate follows directions and reads the entire listing. Companies want to hire thoughtful individuals -- no matter your talent or experience, not following the simplest directions signals that you don’t really care.

If it’s between you and several other candidates, a great cover letter can make you stand out from other qualified candidates. Plus, a well-crafted cover letter shows off your writing skills. Even if your job doesn’t require writing, effective communication is a cornerstone for any position, creative or otherwise. Moreover, a cover letter allows you to demonstrate that you’ve done your research on this company or job, and can articulate why you are the best candidate.

What information should be included in your cover letter? Make sure it is not boilerplate. A generic cover letter will look like just that -- standard. You want to stand out, so share details about why you feel you’re a good fit for the job. If you’re looking at a graphic design job at a fashion company, explain how you started taking sewing lessons or how you follow trends closely.

Highlight successes at previous jobs. If you were responsible for driving traffic to a new website, your resume can only convey so much of that information. However, a cover letter offers you the opportunity to discuss your achievements in more detail (for example, you increased web traffic by 36 percent in a 9-month period).

Finally, a cover letter is a great way to show off your personality. Your writing style and what you choose to include helps paint a picture beyond your resume and portfolio. How are you a leader? What story can you tell? What makes you a great cultural fit for this environment?

In short, your cover letter is your calling card and can demonstrate additional information not readily available on your resume.

Looking for a job? Artisan always has open job listings for creatives!

The Importance of Proofreading Your Resume (And Everything Else)

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

According to a survey conducted by Grammarly on Indeed.com, the average job seeker has at least one punctuation error on their resume, and 60 percent of errors are grammatical.

If the job requires attention to detail or if you promote yourself as “meticulous,” how can a hiring manager trust that you are those things if your resume has simple spelling mistakes and typos?

Those tiny errors could make them think twice about calling you for the role.

One cannot underestimate the importance of proofreading. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during this necessary step in applying for jobs:

Proofreading does not equal spell check. Misspellings and grammatical mistakes are common, and they happen to everyone. But spell check cannot replace your sharp eye. Most spell check programs do not recognize contextual spelling errors (like “achieve” versus “achievement”).

Don’t rush your email. When you see the perfect job, it’s easy to get excited and click “send” before thoroughly reading it over. However, if you spelled the name of the company incorrectly, it’s very unlikely they’ll be emailing back!

Check your online portfolio. Hiring managers, especially in creative fields, are going to look at your website. If you’ve misspelled a few words, or have grammar errors, it will negatively impact your beautiful photos or exquisite design. They’ll remember that you weren’t fastidious enough to double check your own website.

Keep it consistent. If you’re still employed at a position, use present tense -- use past tense if you’re no longer there. Stay consistent and use an active voice (“developed strategy,” “created designs”). Catching errors in consistency is part of proofreading.

Have a friend help you! If you’ve already combed through all your hiring materials, ask a friend (or several) help you proofread as well just to be on the safe side.

The good news is that your resume, LinkedIn profile, and online portfolio are easy to fix. All you have to do is take the time to proofread and make sure there are no errors.

So proofread your resume. Proofread your cover letter. Proofread your online portfolio. Proofread your writing samples. Proofread your blog. Proofread your email to a recruiter or hiring manager. Proofread, proofread, proofread. You can thank us later after you score the job!

Cover Letters: Do Hiring Managers Really Read Them?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

 

Cover letters: Some job seekers swear by them, others don’t use them at all. Are cover letters really a necessity when applying for a job and are hiring managers even reading them? Opinions are divided. We recently read this article on The Guardian with these handy sample letters and thought we'd offer some handy advice when applying for jobs.


As recruiters, we’ve seen it all. We’ve received generic letters where only a company name is changed, or 2 pages of background info on an applicant, or sometimes quirky little notes with funny anecdotes. So what should you be doing when applying for a job?

Keep it short & sweet.
This is the place to list a few highlights from your experience gained across several positions. Don’t rewrite your resume! Read through the key responsibilities of the job you’re applying for and highlight your experience as it relates to the key points. You don’t need to go into too much detail here, just think of it as a summary of your best bits.

Use formatting to emphasize key items.
Bullet points, bold, underline, or italics can help readers very quickly see keywords or sentences that are crucial to the job you’re applying for. Go easy on the formatting, though.

Be specific about your experience. Avoid overused phrases like “team player” or “excellent communication skills". For more information on words to avoid, read our recent blog on buzzwords. Instead, explain that you’ve “managed a team of X”, “collaborated with cross-functional departments” and “led client presentations”.

Go beyond the resume. Let’s face it – you can’t put everything on a resume. An introductory email provides a platform for mentioning relevant projects you might have worked on, hobbies or passions you may have and an opportunity to explain any issues with your resume such as a gap in experience, moving jobs frequently, etc. Make it easy for the hiring manager.

Keep it personal.
Address your email to the actual hiring manager for the position. Avoid “To Whom it May Concern”. Even if you don’t know names of those hiring, ensure you customize the letter with the company name, locations and industry references to show you’ve done your homework.

Check your spelling and grammar. Nothing puts your resume in the “NO” pile faster than innocent spelling or grammar mistakes. Use your Spellcheck – but also have a set of human eyes review it for you.

Now put those skills to the test. See one of our jobs that might be right? Apply today!

 

8 Tips to Help Your Resume and Portfolio Stand Out

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

 

As agency recruiters and sourcers, our goal is to find amazing talent for the open positions our clients have and help make an impact for both.  In order to successfully do so, we review 50+ resumes a day before we get to the interview phase.  That makes over 250 a week, and more than 1,000 a month, conservatively guessing!

Below are 8 tips to help your resume and portfolio stand out.

INITIAL FACTORS

Every new search begins with the required elements of a position. We're here to help by working with you to see how and why your background may be fit for a role.  Here are a few things we take into consideration at the beginning of a search.

  1. Job Title & Responsibilities.  Your current job title & what your current responsibilities are.  For example, if you are looking for a graphic designer role but have not held that position in a while, we'll need your help to clarify why.
  2. Industry/Vertical Experience. If you looking to change verticals or have an industry preference but haven't been able to work professionally in it, consider taking on some freelance projects to gain exposure and industry experience.
  3. Years of Experience. Let us know why you are open to a more junior position, or why you may be qualified for a more senior one.
  4. Job Location.  An important factor is commute-time. If you are open to a position outside your local area, please be specific in your submission letter.

RESUMES, PROFILES, AND PORTFOLIOS

Once we have identified a pool of candidates for a specific role, the fun begins! When looking for creative roles, we like to browse the portfolio first.  We begin every search with a good understanding of the aesthetic and design style a talent has and whether it's a match for what a client is looking for.

  1. A clean, organized, and easy to navigate portfolio is a breath of fresh air!  Give your portfolio an extra "oomph" by showcasing your most recent and relevant work samples.  When selecting pieces to include, go for the projects that demonstrate your design strengths, add a little bit of diversity, and make sure images are high resolution.  Don't forget to include your favorite projects as well since your passion will shine through when talking about them.   List your involvement on the project—whether it was creative direction, or production….let your online portfolio be clear and concise.

If you are unable to create your own website, there are many online portfolio sites such as Behance, Dribbble and Coroflot to utilize.  A comprehensive list can be found on our resources page.

  1. A chronological resume is the easiest to browse, starting with the most recent work.  If you've worked at agencies, make sure to include a brief list of accounts you've worked on.  Descriptions of your roles and duties are essential, along with time spent in the company.   List your Education, dates, degrees, software proficiencies and expertise levels
  2. Longevity.  Clearly state if a role was freelance for a specific project. Otherwise several short-term assignments at different companies can be considered a red flag.  Help us understand the different career moves you've made and how you can be a stable and loyal addition to the team.  
  3. Typos are the first things to jump out on your resume and portfolio.  Even if you've reviewed it a hundred times, let a friend with a critical eye take a look before you send it out.  As Laszlo Bock, Senior VP of People Operations at Google, said, "Typos are deadly because employers interpret them as a lack of detail-orientation, as a failure to care about quality."  You don't want that to be their first impression of you so take a few extra measures for peace of mind.

Of course, this is a general approach at how the initial process of sourcing goes.  The depth of what we do as an agency and the core of how we take a different approach takes precedence during the interview stage where we dive deeper into your background and work with you on culture fit and career expectations.  

At Artisan Creative, we are in the business of connecting you to the right role so help us understand your strengths, values, and career objectives.  A clear understanding of these on our end, coupled with a well-written resume and beautifully designed portfolio on your end, can be the beginning of a great work relationship.

 By Jen Huynh, Sourcer at Artisan Creative

Feeling Lucky? Pass it on!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

There are probably people in your network who are on a job search and you are probably helping them. You have endorsed them on LinkedIn or even written them a recommendation, if you have worked with them in their field. You have introduced them to the people you know at their target companies. When they land, you will be part of why they were successful.


Those people are lucky to have you and they know it.

There are probably also people in your network who are in a field you have no connection with, who are friends rather than work colleagues, who are targeting companies you’ve never heard of. What can you do improve their luck, too?

Be uplifting - Your friend’s self-talk is most likely critical and second guessing. The best thing you can do is not add to it, even if you think he could do better. Find out what he feels is working and encourage more of that.

Do what you can - Even if you know nothing about and no one in your friend’s field, you can proofread her resume or cover letter, help research target companies, and brainstorm strategies for her search.

Network together - Networking events are never a waste of time and they are much more fun with a friend. If you go to his, he’ll go to yours. And follow up if you meet anyone interesting.

Raise awareness - When you hear your friend being negative, point it out. We often don’t realize that we are talking ourselves down and only remembering the bad moments.

Practice - The secret to great job interviews is good preparation and you don’t need to be in your friend’s industry to help her refine her answers to common interview questions.

Luck can play a role in landing a new job, but you have to be at the right place at the right time with the right mindset and always ready to bring your A game. We can all help each other with that.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Sincerely Yours: Cover Letter Closers

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

You’ve introduced yourself and told the hiring manager why you are a great fit for her job opening. You have used keywords from the job description so that computer screeners will flag you for further review. You have been personable and professional--and brief. Now to tie it all up with a bow.

Some people will say that cover letters are dead and unnecessary, since “no one reads them anyway.” Certainly there are hiring managers who are not reading cover letters, but there are also some tossing out any resume that does not have one. We recommend always including a cover letter with a resume or job application when it is permitted. A hiring manager then has the choice of learning more about you than your resume can show.

We have written about salutations but the last thing in your cover letter might be what the hiring manager remembers. Here is our advice on finishing it off:
  • Mission--If you have done your research, you should have come across the company’s mission statement or vision. We hope that mission is something that piques your interest. Tell him why that mission is something you are excited about.
  • Readiness--She will know your qualifications from your resume. Finish your cover letter with a clear statement of how prepared you are to get started right away being a productive member of her team.
  • Contribution--You want to work at this company because you can help it grow and thrive, not just to further your own career. The rest of your letter was about you, let the closing be about them.
  • Follow-up--Be clear about how and when you will get in touch with the hiring manager to check on the process. Put it on your calendar and make sure you follow through.
  • Appreciation--If the hiring manager has indeed read your letter, she has already invested time in you. Be appreciative of that for its own sake. Say thank you.

Your cover letter may not be read and it may not get you an interview, but don't miss this opportunity to have your voice heard by the person who decides which candidate is worth bringing in. Make sure you are presenting yourself as well as possible. And proofread!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

To Whom It May Concern

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Image by avanzero via stock.xchng

Stop right there! Don’t write that! 

It’s hard to know how to construct the perfect cover letter. Maybe there is no perfect cover letter. Maybe an email introduction is more your style. 

Whatever you call it, there must be a better way to achieve your goal — landing an interview.

The Salutation

The worst offender is the title of this post, but “Dear Sir or Madam” is not far behind. Your best practice is to try to find out the name of the person you are trying to contact, via the company website or LinkedIn. If that isn’t possible, “Dear Hiring Manager” is a better alternative.

The Opening

“I am writing in regard to…” They do know that. Effective use of the email subject line would give that away as well.

“Please accept this application…” This one is more polite, but still - they know why you are writing.

Your first paragraph is your “lede,” as they say in journalism. Start with why you contacted them. Something in your experience that makes you a candidate they should not miss.

The Body

Whether you talk about your experience or how you meet their requirements, be sure to use keywords from the job description in the meat of your cover letter. Limit yourself to 1 – 2 paragraphs with no more than 3 sentences each.

When writing via email, use bullet points, instead, to keep the email succinct.

The Closing

Be sure to thank the reader for their time and let them know when and how you will follow up. And then follow up.

The ideal cover letter is intriguing, to the point and not too long. Think of it like your elevator pitch. Your resume may never be seen if your cover letter doesn’t catch the hiring manager’s eye.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Job Search: Follow Through and Hit Your Target

Thursday, March 28, 2013

 

Getting that resume to the right person for the right role is a great start to getting a job, but it is only the beginning. Our hope is that you’ve perfected your resume—using keywords, providing tangible results of your achievements, telling your story—and have been offered an interview. Although it seems like the brass ring is almost in your grasp, don’t lose your focus now:

Before your interview:

Check your network – use LinkedIn to find out if you are connected with anyone at your target company, even if they are a second-level connection. Get in touch with relevant friends and let them know that you will be interviewing. Find out anything you can about your interviewer and the company culture.

Read their blog – You can glean a lot of information from a company blog. It can certainly give you ideas for things to ask about at your interview. The company’s “voice” is clear in this medium; give it a listen.

Check their social media – Like and Follow your target company on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You never know what you might learn that will help in your interview or when making a decision about an offer.

Preparing for an interview is a process in itself and we have written about interview questions, research and even how to dress on our blog. 

How about afterwards?

Thank you notes – A handwritten thank you goes a long way in telling your interviewer that you appreciated her spending valuable time with you. Do not neglect this classic method of follow up.

Stay in touch – Although you have to be sure not to pester your interviewer, if you have not heard anything for a week or ten days after your interview, you can call or email for an update. Offer to provide any information they might need and wish them well in their search for the perfect fit.

Don’t forget assists – If you found people in your network who gave you information or even just sent you encouragement, thank them, too. And offer to return the favor if you are ever able.

Keep a calendar – Especially if you are applying and interviewing for a lot of roles, keep a calendar of when resumes went out, when you interviewed and reminders for following up. It’s easy for details to fall through the cracks if your search is a busy one—and we hope it is!

It would be nice if job search were a simple process, but doing it right is worth it in the end.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Email Cover Letters

Thursday, May 31, 2012

 

We’ve written before about the importance of a cover letter when applying for a job. It’s a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates, highlight interesting experience that you might have, and show some of your communication skills that resumes do not convey. Email cover letters are just as important as their paper counterparts.

But a bad email cover letter is worse than none at all.

Here are some tips for writing an email cover letter that give you a better chance of making the next round, the phone screen:
  1. Use the hiring manager’s name in your salutation. If you don’t know it, use “Dear Hiring Manager.” Never “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Those are too formulaic, awkward and old-fashioned.

  2. Subject Line = Summary. Who are you and what role are you writing about? Put that information where it can be easily identified.

  3. Be clear and concise. A short paragraph explaining specifically why you are a great candidate is enough. If your entire cover letter can fit on one screen without scrolling down, they will read the whole thing.

  4. Use keywords in your letter as well as in your resume. Hiring Managers often use sophisticated applicant tracking software to screen email submissions. Use the most important words from the job description in your letter to ensure your application is considered.

  5. Don’t be clever. I know, I know. You are clever and your cleverness makes you unique. However, the the email cover letter is not the place to let that personality shine.

  6. Make sure you include all of your contact information.  The means including your email address as well, as it may not appear on the message when they open it. Make it easy for hiring managers to contact you.

  7. Proofread. More than once. Send your email to a friend first and have them read it. Spellcheck is not sufficient.
HR execs are overworked and under stress. Make it as easy and quick as possible for them to decide that you are someone they want to talk to and your interview opportunities will definitely increase.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

The Power of Proofreading

Thursday, October 20, 2011



I feel sure you’ve heard this before.

Proofread your work. And your resume. And your cover letter. And your email. And your blog. And your online portfolio.

Since high school, or even before, people have been telling you and you have been…spell checking.

Sometimes. Spell check is not enough.

The power of proofreading is a negative power. Typographical errors, misspellings and grammatical mistakes suck the potential right out of an otherwise promising candidate.  Instead they leave your resume a crushed ball in someone’s trash can.

Picture this: You’re a marketing pro looking for work and see a posting for the perfect role in the perfect place for the perfect salary.  You have all the experience and education the job requires, and you excitedly attach your resume to an email with a little note of introduction.  You click “Send” without another thought.  A couple of days later you decide to use that introduction as the start of another email cover letter, only to discover that you spelled the hiring manager’s name wrong.  Spell check won’t catch that one!

How about this?  A hiring manager has decided to take a look at a web designer’s online portfolio to see if she thinks his aesthetic will work for her company.  She clicks on the link he has provided and finds herself on his beautifully designed homepage.  It boasts evocative photographs and a clear user interface.

But one of his menu items reads: “Web Content Mangement.”

What does that make her think?

Did his resume and work say “attention to detail?”  Not so much.

76% of recruiters in a survey about typos said that mistakes would cause them to take a candidate out of the running for an interview.

Do you really want 76% of hiring managers throwing out your resume because of a typo?   I don’t like those odds!

What is the secret?

Proofread. Proofread again. Have your mother proofread. Your spouse. Heck, your kid (I’ve been proofreading my father’s academic papers since I was 8). Put as many eyeballs on your materials as you have friends you trust.  And a couple after that.

In this uncertain job market, you don’t have any wiggle room.  This one is easy to fix. Fix it!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Search

Recent Posts


Tags


Archive