… and the triumvirate of ‘L’s that lead to success are Letters, Leadership and Listening. A somewhat disparate lot!!
Why Letters? So many job applications these days are submitted as ‘Forms’, which can be simple or complex depending on the company; so why am I discussing ‘Letters’?.
If you are submitting your CV for consideration for future employment then you will definitely need to support it with a good letter of Introduction. And even with a specific Application Form, a covering letter can be a way of creating a great first impression.
In the days of word processing with ‘formats’ and ‘templates’ there is no need for any letter to be badly laid out; but there are still a couple of things you need to be aware of to make yours shine for you. So here is a checklist for creating an effective letter…
• Is the letter dated? Please don’t laugh; you’d be amazed at how many aren’t!
• Are all your contact details clear and easy to find … and are they accurate? Again it seems common sense, but I recall an otherwise excellent applicant who had given his previous mobile number. In the excitement of getting a new mobile he had failed to ensure that signature blocks and letterheads had been changed.
• If you are writing a covering letter for an Application Form, check to see if there is a reference number, and if there is don’t forget to quote it in your letter.
• Don’t address the letter to ‘Whom it may concern’; ‘Dear Sir’ or even ‘Dear Sir/Madam!’ Find out the name of the person with a quick phone call, and make your introduction personal :-
To: Ms Sally Wenham
Dear Ms Wenham; (or if the company is less formal, even ‘Dear Sally,’ may be appropriate)
• Use business communication principles and get straight to the point. ‘I am applying for the position of Accounts Clerk as advertised in today’s Brisbane Chronicle’ is much more likely to be appreciated by a busy HR Manager than ‘I have recently left High School and have been doing a part time course on Double Entry bookkeeping, which I quite enjoy.’ – Which will probably get put down right about there.
• Ensure that any information that you provide in support of your application, and which is not included in a formal application form, is laid out in detail and its relevance to the application explained.
“I was elected secretary of my local Neighbour Watch Committee for three years in a row, and I have attached a list of the duties expected of that position which cover many of those listed in the job criteria. I have also included references from the President of the Committee and the Police Liaison Officer as to my effectiveness. I resigned from my position when was accepted for my university course.”
• Please print it out on white paper – no fancy borders, or colourful backgrounds to distract from the quality of the information.
• Use your spellchecker and check your grammar. Then type your name clearly under your signature, in fact use your computer resources to create a clear signature block which is so much easier for the recipient to read than a scribbled hieroglyphic!
• Keep a copy for your records, and make sure you check the postal address, and any inclusions before mailing it with a sigh of relieve in a job well done.
If you have created an effective letter, you might very well land an interview, and if the position has potential you might be required to demonstrate your leadership skills. With previous experience this need not be a problem, but what if this is not the case – how can we show that, even without formal work experience, we have the potential for greatness?
Look to your other activities and make a list of what you do; and see what possibilities are there before you. And don’t forget to list them carefully and don’t leave anything out! I recall an applicant for a position which required good team leading skills and he didn’t appear to have any, until a casual enquiry revealed that he was a Corporal in the Army Reserve!!
If you need to show your leadership capacity, what questions on your application form can help you highlight them? Don’t overlook the simple questions that can reveal you as a powerhouse of leadership energy and experience.“What sports do you enjoy” is a perfect lead in to a leadership discussion if you use it wisely – even if only to demonstrate your understanding of poor leadership qualities.
If leadership is a requirement, then you must demonstrate that you have it in all sorts of ways.
And finally, let’s learn about Listening! When we are nervous we can focus too much on ourselves and our reactions, and this closes us off from what is being said by the interviewer. If we are to answer the questions to highlight not just our suitability, but our overwhelming superiority in respect to this position we need to be alert to opportunities to do this. And if we don’t listen effectively we can miss them.
So listen actively and positively. Look at the person who is speaking; give some positive feedback that you are listening by looking alert and nodding to show understanding.
Listen carefully to the question; do you understand exactly what is being asked? If not clarify!! It doesn’t mean that you are stupid if you do so, it means you are taking care to be accurate.
And listen for the key words, ‘what do you know about …’ is a trigger for information, the word ‘know’ means the questioner is looking for ‘knowledge’.
So what could questions like; ‘How did that make you feel .…’ or ‘How important do you think that good communication is for leaders’ be looking for? What are the trigger words in these questions? If you learn to identify the trigger words you will be able to answer the right questions!
So Letters, Leadership and Listening are all skills we can use in our interviews to leap-frog over the others and land that job we are looking for.