The Career Doctor: Career Advice for All
A Career College and Job-Search Advice Column
Dr. Randall Hansen a nationally recognized career expert 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 of The Career Doctor.
If you have any college career or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis.
Note: Readers can find other columns from this year in Current Year Archives of The Career Doctor Q&A.
In This Issue (02/25/05):
- Dealing with a spelling error on job applications
- Formatting the look of cover letters
- Determining flaws in job interviewing style
- Handling requests for salary requirements
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: I have applied several times to a particular company and just discovered much to my horror that I had been spelling the city’s name wrong (at least three applications so far). It’s a two-word name and I made it one word. Worse it’s a company I do business with regularly and that’s one of my “ins” into the company my “knowledge” of them and yet I didn’t know such a small thing. How embarrassing but worse how damaging to my credibility.
I just applied for THE position I had been waiting for and it was after I mailed that letter that I realized the mistake I had been making. I was hoping so much to finally get an interview with this company and now this. Is there any way to recover from this error? Should I follow-up with an “at least I’m consistent” light-hearted letter or hope they didn’t notice as it was going to a different department?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: If the job you are applying for is that of an editor or proofreader then perhaps it’s a major blunder but otherwise I think you can just let this error be. In the great scheme of cover letters it is MUCH more important to get the name of the hiring manager and name of the company spelled correctly — and I am assuming you did that.
Look at DeLand where I am based. Most of the mailed correspondence I get spells it as Deland and don’t even get me started about how people pronounce it. Regardless while I would of course recommend all job-seekers have perfect spelling and grammar in your cover letters I would not make a big deal of your oversight.
I might be concerned however about someone who has applied for three different positions within the company. Are the positions similar? Do you have any sense why you were not interviewed for the previous positions? If you do have a few contacts within the company I would ask them whether there is any ‘word’ on your reputation from the people within the departments you are applying to.
And speaking of cover letters wanted to share this comment from a job-seeker who had asked me how to make a bigger impact with his cover letter for an internship — and I told him to deliver it to the manager personally but when doing so to be prepared for an on-the-spot interview which is just what happened: ‘Just writing to thank you again for your advice with my cover letter for an internship and how to deliver it. I found the manager’s name and went to deliver my letter to her today. She was so impressed with my initiative of actually delivering the letter by hand that she interviewed me on the spot and wants to set up a more formal interview in the near future. Thanks so much your edits and advice about actually hand delivering the letter were invaluable and I really appreciate your time.’
|Q:||Kristen writes: I had a quick question for you. I had written a cover letter and wasn’t sure where to put my name and contact information. I had originally put it on the top of the page in the middle so that it would match the heading on my resume. However my mom told me that she has never heard of putting that information in the top middle of the page. She said that it had to be right or left aligned or that it could be at the bottom after I sign my name. I looked in the cover letter resources on the website but I am still not sure. Could you let me know if all of those are acceptable?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You know I don’t really have anything against well-meaning parents aunts uncles cousins etc. but unless they work in the career management field they are probably not the best person to ask about these things — and I get these kinds of comments all the time.
So I am glad you have asked me. In the ideal situation all of your job correspondence should look exactly the same — a matched set. The ‘header’ of your resume ‘ where you have your name and contact information — should be the same on your cover letter as well as on your references page salary history page and any other supplemental pages.
It doesn’t matter if the type is centered left-justified or right-justified. What matters is that you are consistent and use a readable font.
And just a reminder about what should go in the header: name address phone number (home and/or mobile) email address. Provide as much contact information as possible but if you use an email address be sure it’s a professional one not like one I received recently from ‘sexyprincess84.’
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: I have been on two separate job interviews and still have not landed a job. I dress for success project a happy attitude and show up for the interview on time. I research the company I am interviewing for have a pleasing personality and I am enthusiastic about joining their company.
My question is this: What am I doing wrong?
My resume is good enough otherwise I would not be called in for an interview. I think the fact that I do not have as much experience as someone else is a factor. But how am I supposed to get ANY experience if no one will give me a chance? It seems like the companies like something about my resume that I submit but when it comes to the hiring part I get burned.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: It’s important for job-seekers to do the kind of self-analysis you have done because if something is not working you need to fix it.
I agree with you that your cover letters and resumes must be pretty good — good enough to get you two interviews but how many positions have you applied to? Even though they seem to be working for you I would review them as part of the process. Make sure your resume clearly identifies your accomplishments skills and education/training.
And while you say you are doing all the right things in the interview the results — though only a sample of two — say something different. It could be that in these two situations you were just not the person they were looking for but it could also be that you are doing something wrong in the interview.
So here are your choices. If you felt as though you had good rapport with one of the recent interviews I would contact that person and ask if they would mind giving you a critique of your performance in the interview. If that option is a bit too unnerving for you then consider conducting a mock interview with a career professional — perhaps from your alma mater — and asking that person to critique your interviewing style.
If you are struggling with interviews or getting interviews but not job offers then you should review the many interviewing tools provided in this section of Quintessential Careers: Guide to Job Interviewing Resources.
|Q:||Mike writes: Hi I have a question. I’m applying for an administrative assistant position with the state. They are asking for a salary request. What am I to do? They already have the salary range listed on their website. Should I just copy that verbatim?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: There seems to be a rush in employers asking for salary requirements because I have received about five similar emails in the past month — from job-seekers applying to both government and private sector jobs.
There are any number of reasons why hiring organizations ask for your salary requirement most often to see if your request fits into the salary range for the position.
Your strategy as the job-seeker is to not get pinned down with a specific number. In fact unless you know the range you should be fairly vague. In your case I would simply list the range from their site — or just the higher end of the range (if that’s where you belong).
Remember that you want to delay salary discussion for as long as possible — until you are the last or one of the last job-seekers left. You’ll have more power to negotiate when the employer decides you are the perfect candidate for the job.
However employers can get the upper hand in the process by asking for your salary requirements often eliminating those folks who ask for too little or too much. So if the salary range is not listed your goal should be to see if you have a networking contact within the company who can supply that information or use a service such as salary.com to get a ballpark of the salary range. If you do not have any firm information on the salary range you should try and be as vague as possible such as ‘a salary in the mid $30’s.’
Read much more about salary requests in my article Responding to Requests for Salary Requirements or Salary Histories: Strategies and Suggestions published on Quintessential Careers.