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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 September 28, 2020

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

1. Determine Your “Why”

Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

“Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

2. Write Down Your Goal

If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

3. Set a SMART Goal

A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

     

    By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

    • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
    • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
    • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
    • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
    • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

    Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    4. Take One Step at a Time

    Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

    Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

    For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

    This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

    5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

    With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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    For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

    The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

    Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    6. Schedule Your Tasks

    Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

    What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

    For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

    Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

    While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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    7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

    Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

    Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

    You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

    8. Check off Items as You Go

    You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

    There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

    If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

    9. Review and Reset as Necessary

    Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

    If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

    The Bottom Line

    When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

    More on Goal Action Plans

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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