It doesn’t get much more challenging than being an entry-level long-distance job-seeker applying for jobs in New York. Which is why you should listen to me when I preach and lecture and yell about cover letters.
A reader writes:
I wanted to thank you for all of the job-hunting advice on your blog, especially the parts about cover letters. After you posted the link to Kimberlee’s cover letter, I started sending out letters that sounded more like me (I had been writing letters specific to each job already, thanks to your advice). It felt like a pretty big gamble, but I wasn’t hearing anything back from my generic-y, extremely formal letters so I figured I had nothing to lose.
I’ve only had the chance to send out two, but both of those yielded interviews and then offers! I’m an entry-level out-of-towner applying for jobs in New York, so getting two offers in less than a week is extra-amazing. One hiring manager said she only ever interviewed New Yorkers for entry level positions, but my cover letter was so great that she had to meet me. I would have never thought to send that kind of letter without your advice and examples. And I used your e-book to prep the hell out my interviews. Feeling confident in my answers to the questions on your list helped me come up with good, solid answers to questions I never saw coming. So thank you, thank you, thank you!
It’s a temporary position (still better than what I had before) so I’ll have to keep job-hunting for the near future, but I feel a lot better about the process and my prospects thanks to you and your blog.
Congratulations! And thanks for illustrating why a great cover letter that sounds like you and isn’t stiff and formal is worth putting in the time. (As is reading my e-book, obvs. If anyone’s inspired by this story and wants to read my How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager
, you can get a 20% discount by using this code: spring2011 .
I’m not going to say I told you so, but … yes, actually I am. I told you so.
This is an update from the letter-writer from last Sunday, who couldn’t figure out why an interviewer who had seemed really enthusiastic had suddenly gone AWOL and hadn’t gotten back to her:
Just wanted to provide an update. I got the job offer today! I was excited and relieved to have my job search time be cut short this time.
A note to anyone else who else is stuck in the after the interview waiting game, the HR rep gave me some great feedback. She said she appreciated that I checked in once with a polite short e-mail to know I was still interested when the decision slowed down. She did note that some other candidates in the past would send unprofessional e-mails, full of spelling and grammar errors, so it was refreshing to see someone know how to do the professional follow-up. I am now thankful for the 5 times I read the e-mail before I sent it! Good luck to everyone else, and thank you for posting my question :)
Told you so.
It’s worth reiterating: Yes, sometimes when an employer isn’t getting back to you, it is indeed bad news. But sometimes — especially if it’s been less than a few weeks — it just means that things are taking longer than they’d planned … because someone is sick, or there’s a budget question that needs to be resolved, or they’ve just gotten sidetracked with higher priorities. Stay patient, remember that employer time runs on a whole different speed than candidate time, and distract yourself with other things (like this or this or this).
And congratulations, original letter-writer.
Here’s another update from a reader. Remember the woman who was afraid that her old employer was going to out her as transgender to a new prospective employer? Here’s her update.
I’ve been pretty busy… with my new job! With the company I’ve always wanted to work for! In a city I’ve always dreamed of living in! It’s going really well.
I never said anything to HR, and nothing ever came up. I don’t know if they didn’t talk to my old team, or they did and they just don’t care. Based on a conversation with one of my references, I get the impression it’s the former — the recruiter asked pretty standard questions, and didn’t ask her to refer him to anyone else. Whatever happened, it’s all turned out fine, so the specifics don’t really matter to me.
My new team is excellent! I have a great rapport with all of them, and I really like them as people, which is definitely a new experience for me. (You’ll be pleased to hear that I like my manager a lot, too.)
And the cherry on top of all this? I’m now making twice what I used to.
So everything turned out really, really great. My only regret is waiting so long to leave my old job. Thanks for everything!
I can print a letter of praise once in a while without it being obnoxious, right? I hope so, because I really liked this letter:
I was laid off in June and have floundered job search-wise since. Then I discovered your blog about a month ago, and the Magic Question.
I decided to use the question on the very next interview I got, which took place yesterday. My interviewer was nice but very reserved, and then when she asked if I had any questions, I threw out the Magic Question.
You should have seen how her face lit up! We talked about my answer for several minutes. when the interview was over, she was her reserved self once more, and I wasn’t at all sure I’d gotten the job…
Until today. They hired me! I start the 24th. I have no doubt that applying your advice is what got me the job. Thanks!
Thank YOU, for taking the time to write and tell me this. You are awesome. And congratulations on your new job, which I suspect didn’t depend entirely on my advice, although I’m willing to take the credit.
I suppose now is the time when a savvy self-promoter would tell me to mention that I have an e-book full of excellent job-hunting advice, so here’s the mention. You can buy How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager here. And because while I may be self-promotional, I am also nice, here’s a discount code for 25% off the price: 25off
Remember the reader who was trying to decide if leaving her poorly-paid, unpleasant job for a one-year contract position was worth the risk? Here’s her update.
I wrote to you last summer for advice regarding taking a contract position vs. keeping my current position. I wound up not doing either. Before I gave my resignation, I was offered a promotion. My employer did not know I was planning on leaving when they offered it to me. The timing was just a lucky coincidence. I have a different manager now. It’s more money than the contract position offered, and I get paid benefits, that I wouldn’t have gotten with the contract position.
Remember the reader who was frustrated that people kept advising her to aggressively call, call, call any employer she was interested in? I didn’t really have advice for her other than to explain why her instincts were exactly right and in fact people who advise job-seekers to behave like stalkers are doing them a disservice. Here’s her update.
I didn’t get a lot of chance to practice what you’ve been preaching… the job market is still awful. Resumes and applications went out and there wasn’t much response. I figured I was doomed, but set about to using the unemployed time and savings to finish my graduate work.
Then in October, I heard back from a shot-in-the-dark application I’d filled out for $LARGE_AWESOME_WEBSITE earlier in the summer. I jumped at the interview, and it rocked. I got them, they got me, it was a little interview of serious awesome. It’s in the next big city over, so it took a couple of hours to get there and back. Upon getting home, I sat down at my computer to check email and send out the thank you to my interviewers because I was bound and determined to get that job, and was planning in my head when to re-contact after that. No sooner had I sat down when an email came in from one of my interviewers! They were VERY interested, and he wanted to do a little follow up, which we did the next day. The day after that came the job offer, with the official offer letter coming a week later.
I’m currently on a four-month gig in what I can only describe as my dream job: the job I’ve wanted since I went back to school almost 10 years ago and really never ever thought I’d find. My boss and his boss adore me (and they are awesome to work for), and the work I’m doing is exactly what I want and what I’ve been training for. And they’re making noises that they want to keep me permanent once my contract is over, as well as make sure I have the time to complete my graduate work at the same time. I could not ask for anything better!!
Your site has been so helpful and has so much good advice, thank you for this great resource!
Remember the manager who wasn’t sure what to do about the low-performing employee who might have also been engaging in a conflict of interest on the side? Here’s the update.
Well, we decided to reanalyze our development department as a whole, as the managers were lacking in management skills and we weren’t making any money, so we did clear ship, and were able to dismiss her previous manager for a number of poor performance issues (including not generating revenue). We decided to eliminate an admin position too, and offered her a position that merged both some donor cultivation as well as database experience, which she considered a demotion, although it was the same duties with some admin involved, same pay. We stipulated that working from home would not be an option any longer, as she needed to be available 8-5 M-F.
Of course, she could not accept a situation where she could not work from home (her reason being, her consultancy business would suffer and oh, how could we do that to her), and so she resigned, but not without trying to get me to empathise with her about the load of work her consultancy business, and that we should oblige her by allowing her ‘some time away’, and that we were making a big mistake by letting her go–yes, she was for real. And as far as I know, she’s dwindled down to one client, as she reached out to us for some ‘counsultancy work’ to help with one of our events a few months ago. Needless to say, we instead hired someone else who is a stellar employee in every way.
Thanks for your advice and that of the posters – it helped me to remove the manager that allowed this to happen for so long, and put us in a much better position to take control of this employee.
Remember the woman whose coworker was constantly staring at her chest
? Here’s her update.
I took the direct approach. I went to his office, closed the door, and said, “I really don’t know how to bring this up, but because I think you’re someone who would rather have someone be honest and forthcoming, here it is: I’ve gotten the impression during our conversations that you seem to be somewhat distracted by my chest. I believe you don’t mean to be offensive, and I certainly am not accusing you of sexual harassment, but I wanted you to be aware of my impression for the future.”
He took it surprisingly well; he was obviously a bit embarrassed but as I suspected, he didn’t really seem to know he was doing it. I talked to him later in the week and he actually seemed to be making a concerted effort to look me in the eye! Since then, he’s been more aware of his eye contact issues and we’ve had no problems at all!
Remember the reader who was treated horribly by his boss after being the only person present in the office during a burglary? Here’s his update.
I’m happy to say that I quit on my own terms: first by going on FMLA for three months after a diagnosis of PTSD resulting from the robbery, to maintain my health insurance. After my twelve weeks, I resigned and served them with litigation the same day. They settled, unsurprisingly, for a large sum. I now have a new job in a very secure building, and paid off my college debt to boot. Happy ending I guess, if you don’t count the countless hours I spent in therapy.
Thanks to all who are answering the call for updates to let us know how your situation turned out. If you haven’t written in yet, we want to hear from you!
Here’s the first one.
Remember woman back in July who wondered if her dental problem was scaring off employers? Here’s her update:
After reading all your detailed answers to others, and submitting my own question about my angst at interviewing with a chunk o’ front tooth missing, I’ve managed to do an apparently great interview (for once) and got myself hired! It’s been two years of searching to get here, and I can only think that it’s been your advice that’s helped me be more confident and cool during the interviews.
It’s not been just the how-to interviewing advice, but also the insights into how managers think that’s been such a help. I know better what a manager is looking for, and how to answer questions that I used to approach from the wrong angle. You have my undying gratitude!
This is awesome to hear! Congratulations on your new job!