What to Include in Your Thank You Letter

The “Thank You Letter of Doom” piece has turned out to be one of the most popular ever on the Work blog. It made very clear what shouldn’t be in a follow up letter – spelling and grammar mistakes are just the start – but didn’t talk about what should be included (at least one reader asked). Here is the structure to follow.

Professional Greeting. This is a business letter, so use a formal greeting followed by a colon, not a comma. “Dear Ms. Jones:” or “Dear Mr. Smith:”

Lead with Thanks. Thank the interviewer for the time and consideration. Explain that you learned a lot and that you are excited about the prospect of working there.

Follow-Up Thoughts. You took notes during the interview, right? Explain how you have been thinking about one or two of the points during your discussion and how you can help the company with those issues. You want to reinforce that you were paying attention and that you can see yourself there making a difference. As importantly, you want Ms. Jones to see it, too.

Example: “As I thought more about our discussion about the Alpha initiative, I realized how my past work on the Phase III project at ABC Company was so closely related. Your company will benefit from the experience and knowledge that I have from that effort.”

Close. Explain that you want the job and will look forward to the next steps. Thank again. Sign off with a professional closing (“Sincerely” works).

Print it. Read it again. Be 100% sure that it is error free. Send it. Wait for your job offer.

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

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Question 6: Where Will You be in Five Years?

Five Years From Now?
Five Years From Now?

Who doesn’t love to hate this question? I have heard from two clients recently that they have been asked this question very recently. Both are in different parts of the country and in different industries. If you haven’t prepared for it, you should. Here are some ideas to help.

This question is not about you predicting the future. It is about you doing some research about the company and understanding enough about your career and the industry to give a reasonable answer that makes sense in the environment you are trying to enter.

The Goal: Make a reasonable case for your career path with your new company.

Here are three things that you must know.

First, what does advancement look like for people in your profession? If you are an entry-level staff accountant, where have other people been after five years? If you are a new registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree, where have other people with the same education and experience been in that time?

Second, what is the structure and what are the titles within the targeted company? Many organizations have particular job titles. It will benefit you if you can weave these titles into your answer. It will have you speaking the company language and seeming like you belong.

Finally, discover what the company is working on and write yourself into the story. If the company has been in the news because it is launching a new long-term initiative, describe how you can contribute to the success of that program over the coming years. Paint a picture that links your success to that of the company in a tangible way.

Nobody expects you to nail your forecast. They do expect you to have clear thoughts about what you want to accomplish in the context of your (hopefully) new employer’s world.

Be sure to check out the “Questions” series:

Question 5, Question 4, Question 3, Question 2, Question 1, What Are You Good At?

Follow “Work” to stay up to date with the latest in career development and management.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional and is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut, USA.

Know Yourself & Sell Yourself

Feature Function BenefitCan you sell something that you neither know nor understand? Visit some retail stores and you will see people trying, but it doesn’t work. The best sales people know their product, can explain the advantages of its features and connect them as benefits to the customers. In sales-speak, it’s knowing features, functions and benefits. Used effectively, FFB helps make the sale.

As we are facing the historic, crippling, scary, panic-inducing prospect of winter storm Nemo (hype fully intentional) in the Northeast, the example of the common snow shovel seems appropriate. I know, snow shovels don’t need a lot of selling. The Weather Channel incites enough fear to guarantee a sell-out from New York to Bangor, but stick with me.

Our Snow Blaster 9000 has a key feature: an extra wide scoop. The function is that it can move a lot of snow in a single effort. The benefit is that the user can finish faster and get to his Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate with Mini Marshmallows faster. Simple!

Snow Blaster 9000
Snow Blaster 9000

How does this translate to your job search? That’s simple, too.

You are selling yourself, and as every skilled salesperson knows, you’ve got to know your product. When interviewing, you are selling your skills and abilities. You do that by giving examples of how you have demonstrated those abilities before. You wrap it up and make the sale by convincing the hiring manager that you will benefit the company in whatever way makes sense for the job.

Let’s consider a marketing specialist. She has expertise in social media. In fact, she launched a page on Facebook and generated 100,000 likes in 30 days. She discusses with the hiring manager her ideas on how she can help the prospective employer grow its business by bringing these proven skills with her. She has explained her ability, given an example, and presented a compelling case that she will be able to benefit the new employer.

AEB - Social Media Expertise
AEB – Social Media Expertise

Know yourself. Be ready to explain your abilities, examples and benefits. Make the buyer want the product: You!

 

Can you sell yourself in 30 seconds?

Check out “Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself” for more interviewing help.

Five Reference-Gathering Tools & Tips

Specific, concise, results-centered references are an important part of a job search. Hiring managers and HR people want to know what others think about the candidate they are considering. In fact, many companies make this a mandatory part of the process. The HR folks will not be doing their jobs nor will they advance even the best candidate in the process without this box checked.

Here are the five things that you will make your references another compelling part of your career marketing package, supplementing and complementing your résumé, cover letter and LinkedIn profile.

Get them now. Don’t wait until you start your job search to get well-written recommendations into your portfolio. If you are especially marketable, the process could move faster than you thought. You don’t want to be empty-handed when asked for them.

Direct the reference writer. When you ask someone to write a reference for you, tell the person what you would like her/him to write about. Remind her about the project you worked on. Ask him to discuss your negotiating skills and how it helped your company get pricing concessions. If you don’t, all of your references will say “Jim is a great guy” or “Mary is a team player who multitasks well.” You don’t want generic mush. You want focused, valuable and diverse letters that create a comprehensive picture of you, your abilities and your accomplishments. You have to direct the process.

Learn more about LinkedIn recommendations & endorsements here.

Get durable contact information. By durable, I mean at least one way to contact the referrer that is not dependent on employment. If you and Travis worked together at IBM and Travis has since moved on to another company, what good will Travis’s IBM email address and phone number be? A LinkedIn profile address is good, as is a personal email address. Keep them current.

Make it easy. Make life easy for the person giving you the recommendation. Offer to write the letter for him or her. You write it, your buddy Travis reads it, copies it and pastes it into the letter format of his choice. Done! Don’t feel nervous about this. Instead, know that you are making it easier for people to help you. They are doing something that they wanted to do and you have done most of the work for them. Everyone wins.

Create a LinkedIn version. A recommendation letter may be several paragraphs long. A LinkedIn recommendation should be just a few lines. Depending on your relationship with the referrer, offer to write a condensed version of the recommendation and ask Travis to post it to your LinkedIn profile as a recommendation that the world can see. Then you can tell an interviewer that you have more complete letters of recommendation that support the LinkedIn versions.

If you do these things, you will be more marketable and more confident. After all, you already know what your referrers are going to say. That confidence will come through as you interview and you just might become the top candidate.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional, and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

Confidence & The Casting Call

Anytime job seekers are thrown into a non-traditional interviewing environment, stress levels rise and anything can happen. If the experience isn’t one-on-one, heart palpitations and sweaty palms result. I heard from a client this past week who participated as a candidate in a group interview, and he did very well, winning an individual interview and the job. Here are some things we can learn from his success.

If you are faced with a casting call experience like this, where it is you and a crowd, be prepared to tell your story quickly. Those who rise to the challenge in this setting and make a strong positive impression are the candidates most likely to make it to round two.

Second, know your material and your success stories well. If a question is thrown to the group about results, accomplishments or anything else that you should be able to talk about, be ready to respond without hesitation. You want to get your story out. Be alert! Be sharp!

Third, and most important, be confident. Your confidence will come across in both your verbal and non-verbal communication. Speak clearly, with energy, and make eye contact at some point with all of the interviewers. Sit up in your chair, smile and show some enthusiasm. Be the person that the interview panel will notice.

These sessions are designed to do two things. They allow for efficiency and an easy way to eliminate people from consideration. The quiet person in the back of the room is going to get cut. They are also designed to get you to show your personality and confidence (or lack of both).

You have a lot to tell and accomplishments to be proud of or you wouldn’t have been invited to interview. Turn the confidence up, get your stories ready and shine. Make the impression that will want the panel to bring you back for more.

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Golden Rule Recruiting

First, excuse me if this sounds like a rant coming from the other side of the table. It’s not. My hope is that these are reminders about what you already know, and that they offer a perspective that you have not heard.

As a professional who assists and advises clients in their career marketing and search activities, though, I do hear a lot about some of the treatment they receive from recruiters. If you want to really feel some of that heat, attend one of my seminars that attract up to 30 people in a session. When we get to the topic of following up on inquiries and after interviews, the intensity and the volume both rise to a higher level. Here is the question that stirs the emotions of attendees:

The recruiter told me that I would hear something within two weeks, but it’s been a month. What should I do?

The question itself is simple enough, but the reaction it gets from others is powerful. There is a universal loathing for perceived fib-telling and forgetful recruiters, whether they are staff recruiters for a hiring company or third-party pros sourcing candidates for their clients. The howls of frustration are tough to hear and there isn’t much to say other than, “It’s unfortunate, but it happens.”

So what’s the difference? Why should the recruiter care? As if doing the right thing isn’t enough, it comes down to the impact on the employer’s brand. Whether a recruiter is an employee of the hiring company or with an outside firm, both have the power to enhance or damage the brand. This may be more true in consumer-oriented companies that might alienate a customer with shoddy recruiting practices, but it’s not limited to them. Even if the organization sells helicopters to the Chilean army, it still has a reputation to maintain. Every marketing dollar is precious, so why behave in a way that diminishes yours or your client’s credibility?

If you don’t think that people talk and share their experiences, head over to Glassdoor.com to see a concentrated sampling of stories told by happy and unhappy job seekers. Candidates treated with respect with a clear, consistent and fair process will give credit as it is deserved. Those who get something less will take full advantage to scream from atop their digital soap boxes.

Here are a few ideas that can help make everyone’s lives easier:

  • If you say that you will call back with a decision or next steps by a certain date, do it. Even if the decision has not been finalized by the deadline, an update with a new due date will be appreciated.
  • Shoot straight. If the answer is no, then say it. Your candidate will appreciate the opportunity to cross the possibility off the list and to stop thinking about it.
  • Set expectations at every touch-point and deliver. If your candidate is traveling, be sure that the details are addressed. If you made the appointment for 10 AM, don’t leave the candidate stewing in the lobby until 11.
  • Hold your peers accountable to do the same. Set the example and expect them to follow.

The extra attention and energy committed to treating candidates the way that you would want to be treated will pay off. And hey, you will probably be on the other side of the table someday, too. Pay it forward, recruiter!

Your Résumé is Foundational

60 Minutes ran a piece profiling the Platform to Employment program in Fairfield County, CT. In one clip, a lecturer tears a résumé in half, proclaiming it obsolete. Ironically, the same piece shows job seekers practice interviewing with the interviewer reviewing the résumé. Go figure. Articles appear from time to time proclaiming the death of the résumé. Did you waste your time and maybe some money creating and optimizing your résumé? No! It is a foundational piece of your search. Here’s why.

Your résumé is your mandatory ticket into meetings with recruiters and hiring managers. Can you imagine what would happen to the candidate who shows up empty-handed for the interview? “Do I have a résumé? No. You can Google me instead and find my web presence.” This would likely be the shortest and most awkward interview of all time.

[See my series of interviewing advice stories: Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, One Question and Awareness & Adaptability.]

Your résumé is a marketing document. The document tells your story and allows others to present and introduce you to others. I frequently get requests that sound like this: “A friend of mine asked me to send him my résumé so that he could pass it along to his boss.” A LinkedIn profile address might work in this scenario, but maybe not. Note that people are asking for résumés, not Klout scores.

The résumé writing process forces you to clarify your experiences and accomplishments. This, in turn, makes you better prepared for interviewing. The hard work of thinking about your career, identifying the most important results and accomplishments, and putting it all into your résumé forces you to reflect upon, rank and organize your thoughts.

LinkedIn profiles are built off of your résumé. Let’s keep this simple and talk about LinkedIn. You can either upload your résumé and have the system automatically build your profile, or you can fill in blocks that look very much like a traditional chronological résumé. The “obsolete” résumé is the foundation of your profile.

[Get your free e-booklet: LinkedIn Start Up & Tune Up]

Keep that résumé sharp, polished and up-to-date. Be sure that it grabs the reader’s attention in the first few sentences. Don’t worry about it being obsolete. The old-fashioned résumé still has a lot of life and many uses.

Bill Florin, CPRW, is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.