Your Letter-Perfect Pitch


By Liz Ryan It's already clear what you want -- a great, new job -- as well as what the hiring manager wants: a great, new employee. Here's what your r?sum? wants: To avoid sitting crushed in a pile of r?sum?s printed off of some mega-job site. If that happens, the odds are that your r?sum? will simply vanish as the person who has to plow through the stack runs short on stamina.

So your r?sum? wants to be in a very different place -- the short stack received from company employees, suppliers, and miscellaneous contacts once the hiring manager lets it be known that a new opportunity is available.

PERSONAL BEST. Each of these résumés represents a person vouched for by someone the company already trusts. Each travels home and back with the recruiter or hiring manager, or occupies a place of honor next to that person's phone.

So how do you ensure that your résumé ends up there? Network, network, network.

Your company's employees, suppliers, and consultants are on the premises nearly every day. Let them know you're job-hunting, and get them your résumé pronto. Of course, you will pore over the online job postings, but don't imagine the success rate from that pursuit will be high. Put more of your energy into person-to-person job hunting. Otherwise, you'll be repeatedly putting your résumé into piles it doesn't want to be in. Is that any way to treat a valued partner?

LETTER PERFECT. Let's look at some other things your résumé wants. It really, really wants to look good -- no typos or mistakes. It desperately wants a companion that represents it well, and that's your cover letter.

Most cover letters look like they were written in the 1950s, with only "Dear Hiring Manager" in place of the old "Dear Sir or Madam" to remind us that this isn't the era of the Truman Administration. Also, your cover letter needs to say something, for Pete's sake! Here's a decent opening:

I was excited to hear from Agatha Jones that your company is adding a Channel Marketing Manager to its team. My seven years in Channel Management at XYZ Industries should mesh nicely with your aggressive movement into retail [you'll have done research on where the company is heading]. I'd love to chat with you about that initiative when you have a few moments.

Boom. Make those few words count. No one cares where you saw the ad ("I'm responding to your advertisement in the Muskie Bay Buccaneer") or that you have always admired the company or that you can meet anytime at the interviewer's convenience. No one has ever written a cover letter refusing to interview at the interviewer's convenience, though that might attract attention: "I would like to interview, but not when it's convenient for you." Don't do it -- I'm kidding.

How else can you make your résumé happy? Don't hand it over to every headhunter in town, as though you lack discretion. Remember that some search people -- those who get a contingency fee -- will throw your résumé at every company to ever advertise a job opening -- and that will hurt you, as headhunters get banned from companies for that practice.

BEST INTERESTS AT HEART. Make sure that any search partner you work with has orders to check with you before sending your résumé to a client. Otherwise, you could get aced out of a job -- for instance, if your friend who works at the company also handed in your résumé, but the search guy beat him to it.

Your résumé is only interested in what's good for you, so don't abuse it. If you support one another, you may soon be able to give it the good long rest it deserves. Do you have any great business leadership tips to share with BusinessWeek Online's readers? Send them to Liz Ryan, an at-work expert, speaker, and writer, and CEO of online networking organization WorldWIT


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