Resume and cover letter - How good are yours?

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
This is just a "bump" to bring this back to the top of the 24-hour cycle. Jobs are still hard to come by. Don't hamper your search by not being fully aware of your search options.
 
N

nalandmark

Resume Massage

I am new here on the forum and have learned a quite a bit while reading this particular thread.
My question is about tailoring my resume to a particular job. There is a current opportunity I am interested in, but my experience is a little light in supervising a team. I'm not entirely inexperienced at it, and I know I have a natural talent for it. But managing subordinates is a small part of what I do, and proven supervisory experience is one of the emphasized requirements for the job.
Technically, supervising staff is a part of my current role, but not a big one. I have excellent interview skills, and all the faith in the world that I am perfect for the position. But I don't want to lie to ensure that I "get past the gatekeeper".
With the recent headlines about "padded resumes" and their detrimental consequenses, I wonder what in your opinion is the difference between tailoring my resume, and padding?

thanks
NALANDMARK
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
nalandmark said:
I am new here on the forum and have learned a quite a bit while reading this particular thread.
My question is about tailoring my resume to a particular job. There is a current opportunity I am interested in, but my experience is a little light in supervising a team. I'm not entirely inexperienced at it, and I know I have a natural talent for it. But managing subordinates is a small part of what I do, and proven supervisory experience is one of the emphasized requirements for the job.
Technically, supervising staff is a part of my current role, but not a big one. I have excellent interview skills, and all the faith in the world that I am perfect for the position. But I don't want to lie to ensure that I "get past the gatekeeper".
With the recent headlines about "padded resumes" and their detrimental consequenses, I wonder what in your opinion is the difference between tailoring my resume, and padding?

thanks
NALANDMARK
This is a great question!

If your current position does not offer concrete evidence that you know how to supervise people, you have to describe HOW you "know I have a natural talent for it?"

Why not try your explanation out on us here and let us critique it?

You'll need two versions:
  1. for the cover letter to get an interview
  2. for the interview, itself
One of the big things we talk about in Quality is "documented evidence versus anecdotal evidence."

If your current job can't give documentation, how about former job, school, community organization, political campaign coordination? The idea is to focus on the skills you used to supervise folks, not the work that was performed, then explain how those skills are transferrable to the open position.

Almost forgot - Welcome to the Cove!:bigwave:
 
N

nalandmark

Thank you Wes!

I was expecting a nice curt reply about ethics, and you called me out to come up with the facts! I should have guessed coming from a Quality forum!:agree1:
Here are the facts;

The position I am applying for:

QUALITY ASSURANCE TEAM LEADER

Our client in MID / West Michigan, a progressive Chemical Processor has an immediate need for a Quality Assurance Team Leader with strong leadership abilities in a fast paced environment.

The ideal candidate must possess:

Ability to supervise - second and third shift employees within the Product Development Unit. Interpret and execute company policies, interact with all levels of the organization.

QUALIFICATIONS:

* Bachelor's Degree Chemical Engineering or Chemistry, required
* Must have 5-7 plus years hands on' Quality Assurance experience required.
* Dealing with Bulk Tankers raw material must be tested before going to production.
* Must have ability to shut down production due to raw material testing problems
* Proven ability to lead strong willed, long term team members, required.
* Will work in a lab environment
* Some travel required.

Hey, I know what you are saying, a blind ad. But if you read it, it looks like they are looking for a change in quality and don't feel that they have anyone inside that can do it. If they are talking about ensuring a quality operation I can't complain about that.
Anyway, partly due to your prompting, I have made a cover letter that I would love some feedback on. Please be brutally honest; I'd rather have it here than in the interview.

Thank you again.
 

Attachments

  • October 7.doc
    21.5 KB · Views: 232

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
nalandmark said:
Thank you Wes!

I was expecting a nice curt reply about ethics, and you called me out to come up with the facts! I should have guessed coming from a Quality forum!:agree1:
Here are the facts;

The position I am applying for:

QUALITY ASSURANCE TEAM LEADER

Our client in MID / West Michigan, a progressive Chemical Processor has an immediate need for a Quality Assurance Team Leader with strong leadership abilities in a fast paced environment.

The ideal candidate must possess:

Ability to supervise - second and third shift employees within the Product Development Unit. Interpret and execute company policies, interact with all levels of the organization.

QUALIFICATIONS:

* Bachelor's Degree Chemical Engineering or Chemistry, required
* Must have 5-7 plus years hands on' Quality Assurance experience required.
* Dealing with Bulk Tankers raw material must be tested before going to production.
* Must have ability to shut down production due to raw material testing problems
* Proven ability to lead strong willed, long term team members, required.
* Will work in a lab environment
* Some travel required.

Hey, I know what you are saying, a blind ad. But if you read it, it looks like they are looking for a change in quality and don't feel that they have anyone inside that can do it. If they are talking about ensuring a quality operation I can't complain about that.
Anyway, partly due to your prompting, I have made a cover letter that I would love some feedback on. Please be brutally honest; I'd rather have it here than in the interview.

Thank you again.
OK.
We are hitting the weekend doldrums here in the Cove (most Covers go to their REAL lives on the weekend) so answers will be infrequent until Monday. I'll try to remember to "bump" it so it comes to the top of the 24 hour cycle. If I forget to bump by 10 am your time, just add another post to the thread and it will come to the top of the heap.

I am pressed for time myself this weekend since I am giving a presentation early tomorrow morning and need to prepare for a big one Tuesday.

Here's a few brief observations you should consider until you see more replies:
The wording of the letter is weak and tentative. You need to be more direct and positive. This letter is going to an agency/3rd party recruiter - acknowledge that and say something to the effect:

Dear Sir or Madam,
I’d like to meet with you and your decision makers to explore how my skills and experience can best help your client achieve its goals.
You only get on further if you can get an interview - always press to get the interview!

The ad as you present it is very specific about two requirements:
* Bachelor's Degree Chemical Engineering or Chemistry, required
* Must have 5-7 plus years hands on' Quality Assurance experience required.
You must be SPECIFIC how you meet those or your letter will hit the round file. The letter doesn't convince ME you meet the minimum requirements and I WANT you to succeed. It will be a lot different with a recruiter looking at multiple responses. Emphasize the Pfizer learning in the following manner:
I have five years of world class Quality Assurance experience with two companies. My first three years were at Pfizer's Quality Laboratory in Holland, Michigan, in a variety of increasingly more responsible positions. I was able to take those three years of experience to my present employer to take the post of QA/QC Manager, which I continue to hold.
Nobody cares at this point that you got rehired by a former employer - you are merely trying to validate your experience. Deal with the education situation as simply as possible - save the Horatio Alger struggle until the interview.
I have a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Grand Valley State University.
Next after education and experience which you will be required to document at some point in the process, the recruiter throws in some "scare language" to separate the mice from the men
* Must have ability to shut down production due to raw material testing problems
* Proven ability to lead strong willed, long term team members, required.
You will need some forceful story to convince anyone you really do have the ability to deal with 2nd and 3rd shift folks (essentially this means you are going to be all alone) whose livlihood may depend on how much production they can get out and who will be very unhappy with any lab nerd who shuts them down without having the personal charisma to command their respect. These guys won't take kindly to a flubbed test shutting off their income. (Think about the movie franchise "Ghostbusters" and all the flack the Ghostbusters put up with from people they were trying to help. Multiply it and you have an idea of what an apparently honest recruiter is trying to say.)

The way you do this is with a case history (one is all you need in the cover letter - two or more for the interview would be great) of a tough incident you handled well which illustrates how you maintained your cool, prevailed with your opinion, and won the respect of the folks who were of a different opinion. Introduce this case history with something like this:
I have a keen appreciation for the situation of being a lone expert who has to make an unpopular decision stick with coworkers and stressed out subordinates and superiors.
  • When I . . .
  • I discovered that . . .
  • This meant . . . [cause of stress].
  • So I . . . [action] and calmed fears of others by explaining . . .
  • The end result was that [process improvement which gave big benefit to organization.]
At the end of your letter, dump this weak ending
If you are seeking a person with extensive experience in a quality lab, in-depth knowledge of laboratory supervision, and the ability to maintain quality procedures no matter the pressure, then I am the right person for this job.

In the next couple of days, I will contact you to ensure receipt of the attached. I would entertain the opportunity to discuss this position further. Contact me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx to schedule an interview.

Sincerely,
with something short and to the point like

Please call or email me to arrange an in-person or phone appointment where we can discuss your client’s requirements and how I can help meet them.

Sincerely,
Don't forewarn the guy you are going to contact him - how can you? It's a blind ad! If he doesn't answer, don't bother checking whether he got it in any way shape or form - this is the equivalent of a "Hail Mary" pass. If it works, you'll be a hero, if it doesn't, you know you need to keep looking and maybe go back over the basics of looking. Of course he knows what he's looking for - he wrote and placed the ad for pity's sake!

Don't bother sending a resume with this cover letter. You give enough information to whet his appetite to get a call or email. You also don't have to add a gratuitous line like "Resume available upon request or available at interview." When you get the call will be soon enough to worry about dealing with that.

Some tips:
  • Double check the voice mail message on your phone - is it professional (no toddler saying, "Daddy can't come now, he's giving me a bath!") Some folks get a cell phone just for this purpose with voice mail so no kids inadvertently answer or tie up the line. You can make outgoing calls on any phone and not run up the cell bill.
  • Get a separate free email box (Yahoo or hotmail) which is just for job hunting. No one will think less of you for this. Have email rigged to send a "vacation notice" in response to every incoming mail which says something to the effect, Please ensure I have all necessary contact information if you need a reply. I check this mailbox every 24 hours and will return a response the following business day. Call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you need to reach me right away.
I think this should be a good start for the weekend.
 
Last edited:
N

nalandmark

More foreful cover letter

Thank you again Wes for your honest assessment. Here is the revision I worked on over the weekend. If anyone has any assessment please make a comment.
Thanks
 

Attachments

  • October 7 rev2.doc
    22 KB · Views: 195

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
nalandmark said:
Thank you again Wes for your honest assessment. Here is the revision I worked on over the weekend. If anyone has any assessment please make a comment.
Thanks
Don't bother repeating what the guy asked for in the first paragraph or anywhere - just incorporate an answer in a declarative sentence.

Make this more formal -
Re: QUALITY ASSURANCE TEAM LEADER - Michigan
Dear Sir or madam:

I’d like to meet with you and your decision makers to explore how my skills and experience can best help your client achieve its goals.
(you are addressing decision makers at the agency in THIS letter)

Don't bother counting out your points (first, second, etc.) If the sentence doesn't make it clear what requirement you are addressing, you've lost the reader before he gets to "Second." Numbering them makes you look like a fourth grader writing "how I spent my summer vacation."

This paragraph
Furthermore, as Quality Manager, I am responsible for making the unpopular decisions to ensure continued quality. When I notice an instrument not meeting requirements, I “red tag” it out of service. I ensure that the Technical Manager knows exactly how the instrument needs to perform to be allowed back into production. I actively monitor the correction to ensure that the instrument is returned to production expeditiously.
does not begin to address the "deal breaker" requirement I wrote about
* Must have ability to shut down production due to raw material testing problems
* Proven ability to lead strong willed, long term team members, required.
You will need some forceful story to convince anyone you really do have the ability to deal with 2nd and 3rd shift folks (essentially this means you are going to be all alone) whose livlihood may depend on how much production they can get out and who will be very unhappy with any lab nerd who shuts them down without having the personal charisma to command their respect. These guys won't take kindly to a flubbed test shutting off their income. (Think about the movie franchise "Ghostbusters" and all the flack the Ghostbusters put up with from people they were trying to help. Multiply it and you have an idea of what an apparently honest recruiter is trying to say.)

The way you do this is with a case history (one is all you need in the cover letter - two or more for the interview would be great) of a tough incident you handled well which illustrates
  1. how you maintained your cool,
  2. prevailed with your opinion, and
  3. won the respect of the folks who were of a different opinion.
Introduce this case history with something like this:
I have a keen appreciation for the situation of being a lone expert who has to make an unpopular decision stick with coworkers and stressed out subordinates and superiors.
  • When I . . .
  • I discovered that . . .
  • This meant . . . [cause of stress].
  • So I . . . [action] and calmed fears of others by explaining . . .
  • The end result was that [process improvement which gave big benefit to organization.]
Dealing with one lab tech is not dealing with the equivalent of shutting down an entire plant and facing angry coworkers and superiors who stand to lose work and money because there is no production.

Here's the deal:
"You only have one chance to make a good first impression."
With a blind ad, your cover letter has to get the reader's juices flowing to the point where he says, "Wow! I got to meet this guy just to see if he's real!"

Sorry, but this letter didn't do that for me and I doubt it would get an interview with anyone unless he was getting paid by the number of interviews he makes, not on how many he passes on to the next step in the process. (If a guy spends his time interviewing people he is pretty certain won't make the grade, his superiors look at HIM like he's an idiot for wasting time on losers and figure he doesn't know how to separate winners from losers by their cover letters. If your letter doesn't make the grade, why should the guy expect an in-person interview will be better?)

I'm going to take a break for a day or two on your case and see what other replies come from our Covers. I realize you are anxious to get moving, but sending a bad letter now is worse than sending a good one a little late.
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Just a "bump" to move to the top of the cycle

Anyone else with comments? How about some of the recruiters who visit? Any comments for our newbie trying to pique the interest of a blind listing?
 

Jim Wynne

Leader
Admin
Wes Bucey said:
Anyone else with comments? How about some of the recruiters who visit? Any comments for our newbie trying to pique the interest of a blind listing?
Wes, your advice here has been very good, and there isn't a lot that I would add. I've attached a marked-up version of the cover letter that's punched up a bit and subtly addresses an area of concern for the employer:Proven ability to lead strong willed, long term team members, required.
 

Attachments

  • Cover letter markup.doc
    24 KB · Views: 347
J

jmp4429

Here's how I would revise your letter. Take it with a grain of salt, I’m no expert.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating – this company is clearly looking for someone who gets what they want. They need someone who can decide to shut the line down, and then GET IT DONE. Your letter needs to say “I can make the decision, I can get the job done, and if people get mad, I can take the flak” not only in your words, but in the tone of your writing.

Just my two cents worth.
 

Attachments

  • coverletterjmp.doc
    24.5 KB · Views: 260
Top Bottom