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How to Make the Best Impression Before You Even Meet the Interviewer

How to Make the Best Impression Before You Even Meet the Interviewer

You’ve filled out all the forms, and you’ve secured your references. You’ve polished your résumé until it has a mirror-like finish. There’s just one piece of the application package that you have to perfect: the cover letter.

According to a 2013 study, the average corporate job opening has 250 applicants.[1] Writing a solid cover letter can be tricky, but doing so can play a pivotal role in you being one of the four to six people per job opening that land an interview. In this competitive environment, you’ll want to showcase your abilities, but you don’t want to seem full of yourself. When you learn how to write a cover letter, you’ll realize that it is possible to demonstrate your qualifications without bragging.

Because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!

Your cover letter is your first chance to introduce yourself to the hiring manager. Filling out forms and submitting a CV can tell a hiring committee whether you meet the basic qualifications for the job, but knowing how to write a cover letter can help you show them that you are a good fit for their company. The best cover letters offer further explanations about items on your résumé that may need more description. They can also offer an opportunity for your personality to shine.

While the goal is to get hired, a cover letter can also help hiring managers understand why you would not be the best match for them. Even though rejection feels terrible, being hired for a job for which you are a bad fit is even worse. Be honest, stick to your principles, and the right opportunities will present themselves.

First, do the basics if you don’t want your cover letter to be ignored right away.

There are a few simple things that you can do to make sure that you get a second look from the hiring managers.

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1. Customize the letter.

Job searches involve lots of paperwork, and many applicants make the mistake of streamlining their process by creating a form letter and sending it out to all their potential employers. This is a surefire way to end up in the discard pile. Address the letter to the hiring manager by name. You may have to do some digging on the internet or call the business to find this information. The extra effort is just another way of showing that you care. “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/ Ma’am” are appropriate, but they are impersonal.

2. Name the position for which you’re applying.

It is not uncommon for companies to have several job openings at a given time. Be certain that you state which job caught your interest, and how you learned about the position.

3. Keep it concise.

A good cover letter is one page in length, and it generally consists of three to four paragraphs. Keep your font in a professional 12-point style, and use 1″-1.5″ margins so that your letter is easy to read.

4, Use a professional tone.

When in doubt, err on the side of formality. Even if the company appears to have a relaxed culture, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. As much as it can be tempting to include a joke to showcase your amazing sense of humor, it is best to postpone being too comical. Your joke might not translate well in the context of a stack of applications, and it could be misinterpreted by the hiring committee.

5. Use proper grammar.

You’d be amazed at how many applicants submit sloppy work. If a manager’s first impression of you is that you don’t have mastery over grammar and mechanics, it can cast your entire application package in a negative light. Managers will be particularly unforgiving of grammatical errors if the job for which you are applying involves lots of written communication. Have someone proofread your work, and read it aloud to catch typos before you send it.

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Then, write it skilfully if you want to stand out from others.

You only have one page to put your best foot forward. Start by choosing a professional format for your contact information and the hiring manager’s information.[2]

Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself in the first paragraph.

You don’t need to mention personal details such as your marital status or the names of your children. To break the ice, let the manager know where you found the position, and refer to your relevant training.

Example: “When Dr. Norman Jones told me about the GIS Technician opening at your company, I was immediately intrigued. I have been making maps in ArcGIS for the last two years, and I would love to have the opportunity to work for Hazards Mapping Unlimited.”

Paragraph 2-3: Consider the job listing when you are writing this section of your cover letter.

You’ll want to include some specific experiences that relate directly to what they’re looking for in the description.[3] Explain your most relevant experience or a combination of related experiences in more detail. Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm.

Example: “In 2016, I held an internship at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. This experience ignited my passion for hazard mitigation. I was responsible for creating the hazard-assessment maps leading up to Hurricane Matthew’s landfall. These maps, similar to the ones your company generates for its assessments, were used to devise an evacuation plan for the Carolina Lowcountry. From that undertaking, I learned to perform my assessments quickly and efficiently in a high-stakes situation.”

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Space permitting, you have another paragraph in which to tell the manager more about yourself. Perhaps you could include an anecdote about another position from your resume. Connect your experiences to the company’s mission and the job description. Be sure to refer to any relevant qualities that you haven’t mentioned yet. You could also refer to information that demonstrates your knowledge about the industry.[4]

Paragraph 4: This conclusion paragraph is a final opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm about the job in question.

Courtesy and professionalism can go a long way when the hiring manager is sorting through candidates.

Example: “I have enclosed my resume and an application form along with this letter. I look forward to the possibility of discussing the GIS Technician position with you further in the future. Thank you for your time and consideration in reviewing my materials.”

Write a closing, and be sure to sign your letter. Note any enclosures that you are including after your signature.[5]

Feel that you’re still at a loss?

Take a deep breath, and realize that there are plenty of resources to help you. Look at some cover letter samples and reach out to people in the industry if that is an option for you. Amy Cuddy’s advice about power poses will be great for when you do land that interview, but it might also be helpful during a writing break if you need to tap into your inner strength.

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Job searches can be stressful. Put your best foot forward in your cover letter, and visualize yourself getting that interview.[6] You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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Ask If They like What They’re Doing

If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

More Resources About Team Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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