Dr. Randall Hansen is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home page of The Career Doctor.
If you have any career- or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue (09/27/02):
- Submitting cover letter and resume via email
- Answering a very common job interview question
- Dealing with workplace rumors of getting terminated
- Providing salary history when you don’t have one
|Q:||Ben writes: I have a question concerning submitting my cover page and resume via email. The question is that most companies will not accept attachments so I must submit my resume within the message body of my email vs. attachments. How do I maintain the same appearance as the original written in MS Word?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: The short answer is you can’t. And while appearances are important for traditional cover letters the most important element is the content. The same holds true for resumes; appearances are important for traditional resumes but content is the most critical element — regardless of the format.
So how are emailed cover letters different than traditional cover letters? Let me walk you through some of the key issues but before I do let me emphasize that you should always go to each employer’s career center site and examine the guidelines for submitting electronic documents if they list them.
Here are the five critical email cover letter issues.
First know the rules of writing a cover letter. If you are still writing ‘vanilla’ cover letters you won’t get any employer response — no matter how you send it.
Second keep it short. Email cover letters need to be more concise and shorter in length than traditional cover letters.
Third take advantage of keywords. Be sure to use all the keywords from the employment listing — and any other important jargon or keywords from your industry — without making the letter a string of sentences full of jargon.
Fourth watch your line length. Some email software automatically perform line returns for you but I would make sure the lines of your email are no longer than 60 characters.
Fifth take the time to send the email cover letter to yourself first — so you can see what it looks like after transmission.
Finally as you know don’t even bother with attachments. Most employers don’t want them. Instead consider developing Web versions of your resume and providing the URL to the employer (in addition to providing a text-based version).
Find more information and guidelines in my article Tips for a Dynamic Email Cover Letter published on Quintessential Careers. You can also find more information about types of resumes in the Resume Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
|Q:||Barbara writes: I do engineering design work (AutoCAD / 3D) and I am not a college grad. I recently had a phone interview for a position and one of the questions was “do you get along with others..?” This is a subjective question and no one really gets along with 100% of the people 100% of the time — that’s LIFE. Why would this question be asked and how should one respond?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You’re taking this very typical job interview question a bit too hard. Of course prospective employers do not expect you to answer this question by announcing you love all people and have never had any problems working with anyone — even the office screw-up. In fact what would stop even the biggest jerk from lying and saying he gets along with everyone?
So why do employers ask it? Because so much work is now done in collaboration with others — either within your department or in cross-functional teams — the employer wants to get a sense of your ability to deal with others. Think back to grade school where report cards had that statement ‘plays well with others.’ The employer wants assurance that you have decent social skills.
The best way to answer this question is to provide one or two short anecdotes that demonstrate how well you work in teams. An even better answer shows how you mediated disputes between other members of the teams. And always avoid any kind of negatives.
Finally remember that the overall goal of any job interview is to sell yourself — your unique mix of personality skills abilities and intangibles — to the employer. Your focus should be providing every reason for the employer to make you a job offer (or at least invite you to the next round of interviews).
You can find lots of great interviewing resources — including the Job Interview Question Database — by visiting the Interviewing Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
|Q:||Sarah writes: I read your article on Quintessential Careers Getting Fired: An Opportunity for Change and Growth. I had a question that seems right up your alley: I was informed by a coworker that my boss told our departments coordinator I am going to be fired. Things at work have been tense lately but I have not been reprimanded for poor performance stating that my job was at stake. I do work at an employer that has an “at will” policy so I know I can be terminated at the employer’s discretion but what can I do regarding all the talk in other departments? I believe this rumor to be true and do not want her to be aware that I know the ax is about to fall. People in other departments are aware of my impending doom and it’s upsetting and embarrassing.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Let me begin by asking how much you trust and value this co-worker. What was his or her motive for telling you? Before jumping to conclusions you need to evaluate the source of the rumor.
Regardless though your question is really disturbing to me because of the lack of any kind of professionalism from your boss – and your co-workers. Unfortunately I also know that there are numerous office situations where this type of behavior — or even worse — has occurred and there will be many more in the future. In regard to your boss it really makes you wonder about motives. . .is it just to be a complete jerk or is she trying to get you to quit (which is a lot cleaner from the employer’s perspective).
What can you do about the situation? Not much unfortunately. I recommend holding your head high continuing to perform your job at your highest level and taking the high road. It won’t stop the office gossip but people will come to respect you more and question the boss more.
And most importantly of course you should be spending a great deal of time talking to people in your network engaging in multiple job-search techniques and working hard to find a healthier and happier work environment.
One last thought. You could certainly professionally confront your boss — or the supervisor of your boss — about the rumors but given my experience in these matters don’t expect anything from doing so unless the rumors are completely false.
|Q:||Lisa writes: I will be graduating college soon and have not yet held a salaried position. I have only worked on breaks from school for hourly pay. A job for which I would like to apply asks for a salary history in the job posting and I’d like to know how to go about completing one given my situation. My pay in past jobs was significantly below what I hope to make now that I will have a degree and significantly below the going rate for the job I am seeking (and for which I am now qualified). Could you please let me know how to comply with their request without underpricing myself? Thank you very much for your help in advance.|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: The good news is that most employers of new college grads do not expect you to have any kind of decent salary history – and I am surprised this employer has even asked for one; however it may just be standard policy that they ask for a salary history from all job applicants.
What I suggest you do is put ‘non-salaried position’ for all jobs where you worked part-time or were paid an hourly wage. If you are uncomfortable with this approach then I suggest taking the direct approach and contacting the employer and asking for the employer’s guidelines for your situation.
There are numerous reasons employers ask for salary histories. Typically employers want to see job applicants with a steady (and growing) salary history along with the frequency and size of raises and promotions received along the way.
Finally you could also make a point in your cover letter justifying your case for the higher salary — even though we normally advise not mentioning salary this early in the job-search.
Read more in my article Responding to Requests for Salary Requirements or Salary Histories: Strategies and Suggestions published on Quintessential Careers.
Next you need to focus on being prepared to handle the salary question in the job interview.
Get more help with salary negotiation – and all things salary – by going to the Salary Negotiation Resources section of Quintessential Careers.