I was at an event recently when I met a hiring manager from a large employer in London, he talked to me about a project controls position which had become available and it really struck a chord with my experience. I asked a few questions and explained my background then asked if he would be interested in my application, to my delight he said yes and gave me contact details asking me to send my CV and cover letter to him. I am fairly sure my CV reflects the detail required for the role but I have little experience in writing a cover letter can you advise where to start? Sarah – Project Consultant, London.
Many thanks for your question Sarah let me start by saying well done for asking questions about the requirements for the role – this is a key starting point for the bulk of the letter. Ideally you should highlight specific examples of your experience which closely matches the role – avoid being theoretical, keep to facts. As this is a project controls role I would keep focus on where you have “policed” governance or put structures in place, talk though background briefly then what you were actually doing and the results achieved from this.
I know you mentioned your CV you feel is up to scratch, however, the CV needs to back up your cover letter – therefore you should read through the letter once complete then read through your CV to ensue it matches up. This is where many fall down, spending a long time creating a great cover letter then the CV doesn’t reflect this experience clearly. As cover letters often get discarded, it is important to make sure you really work on that CV or all that time will have gone to waste and you’ll be left wondering why you’ve not had a call.
This is an interesting topic in that a great deal of PM professionals I’ve spoken to, say that it can be an impossible feat trying to even get to speak with the recruiter direct. Skipping past all the usual excuses of gazillions of applications/calls/pressure blah blah blah, it is possible to strike up a relationship with these people as long as you make the right moves. Now, building a relationship doesn’t mean stalking… No one likes to be bombarded with calls and emails! Think about how you are approached by others and what techniques they might use which actually work and get your attention. Don’t bother if you haven’t made a good effort to sort out your CV and make it sell your abilities or haven’t done your research in regards to what type of job including which field etc you want to apply for moving forward – and for goodness sake, be realistic, you are not jumping into a programme manager role from support position. No matter how good you are and how great your sales patter – recruiters cannot seek you into their clients when you have unrealistic aspirations.
- Do your research – find the agencies and individuals who handle your type of roles
- Make contact with the identified individuals by dropping them a line and asking if it would be possible to have a chat.
- Make sure you send a well written CV ahead of your call so the recruiter can see your background.
- Don’t be pushy, no one likes to be bullied.
- Do what you say you’ll do, if you’ve arranged to call at a certain time, then do so.
- Make sure you are clear about what you want to discuss and stick to the point – recruiters are busy and don’t appreciate disorganised candidates bumbling on.
- Treat others how you wish to be treated in return, this means everyone, receptionists etc all count!
I remember a candidate working hard to build up a relationship with me, back in my PM recruitment days, we would have a chat on a bi-weekly basis and even though I wasn’t 100% I could place him, I continued to humour him when one day a role came in which was a good match for his skills. I thought about him immediately as I knew I was due a call, we discussed and I agreed to present his CV to my client. Now he wasn’t an exact match but knowing the client well, I knew I could sell him in. Having done so I was pleased to announce that an interview had been arranged for my candidate. He was very happy and so the interview coaching began, I spent quite a lot of time making sure the candidate knew all the was to know about the role and business, and ran through typical interview questions – ensuring the preparation was top notch. After all I knew he would have to shine at interview to beat off his competitors who had a closer match to the role. All was running swimmingly until a day before the interview I received an email…. Yes an email, not a call, from my candidate saying he was pulling out of the interview. Obviously I wasn’t best happy, but c’est la vie, I informed my client and made up for the disappointment with a new candidate (who was offered an interview and eventually got offered the role). So on my part I wasn’t too bothered, however I vowed I would not work with the candidate again as I had stuck my neck out for him and he had been so rude.
A few weeks later I received a call from said candidate who had the front to ask me to put him forward to other roles, I explained as politely as possible that I wouldn’t be doing that and he persisted to ring me regularly to the point I got all my calls screened and told all staff under no circumstances to put his call through. I thought he had got the message but a few months after leaving the PM recruitment business I received a text from a colleague telling me he had been in touch again…. Thankfully my former colleague did not pass on my contact details! And that is how not to make and break relationships!
A fair few people are now turning to other means of promoting themselves out in the employment market and one way to do this is to create your own website. It is not as time consuming and crazy as you think, if you search in a search engine for a project management professional as an example, more and more websites are starting to appear. This course of action is particularly good for contractors who need to be visible even when engaged in work as the next assignment needs to be lined up ready.
To start you will need to choose a domain name (a website name) some choose names to do with your field of expertise and others use their own name. You can sign up with a number of website providers for a nominal sum of money and a good deal of these providers will have templates and online support to help you get moving. This can save you money in the long run as companies set up to design your website can charge hundreds, so think smart.
If you are using the website to try and obtain a new role then you need to make sure you add in detail similar to a CV, making sure you put emphasis on your key selling points and including what you think your target audience are looking for. Keep to the CV rule in that a strong layout, good spelling and grammar are adhered to – always include contact details, I wouldn’t recommend putting your full postal address on there but the nearest city or territory you live in (if you are not keen on moving) or stating you are flexible to move for assignments / relocate for a permanent role. An email address and a cell number will be sufficient. Adding in pieces of work as part of your achievements can work well too – photos or links to articles / web pages which you have been involved in helps the viewer really get to grips with your abilities and as it is your website, you can afford to really go to town unlike a CV which has to be concise. You can even have a page dedicated to articles you have written and case studies, testimonials etc. the possibilities are really endless.
Do make the website visually attractive but not overly complicated; it’s about striking a balance. If you are a keen writer and like to write blog articles, your website could be just the place to add in this function. It will help you rise on the search rankings if your articles are relevant to your field too.
By publishing a website such as this you are also demonstrating some valuable skills such as:
- Website development and maintenance – think about those company webpages you have needed to create and update in your career.
- Proactive behaviour – not just placing your CV and trust in the hands of a recruiter, you are making positive moves to be picked up. You are saving potential employers a handsome recruitment fee too.
- Marketing yourself – your ability to market yourself well is fantastic; it demonstrates how you could market products, projects and initiatives.
So you’ve created the perfect CV and have been applying for roles only to find a lot of them seem to be put on hold or aren’t quite the opportunity advertised, what else can you be doing to ensure you aren’t missing out on jobs. There are a high percentage of roles which aren’t actually advertised; therefore you need to be doing more than just applying for advertised roles.
Here’s a list of areas which should be on your to do list:
- LinkedIn – employers are increasingly using this business networking site to find fresh talent, avoiding recruitment costs they are making contact with individuals who look like a good fit to the team. Make sure your profile is up to date and not just a carbon copy of your CV, add in some interesting pieces of information which will draw in attention. Also make sure you join some groups and join in the forums, you’ll be surprised how this actually opens doors for you. Not only will you be making new contacts, you might just gain attention from hiring managers looking for solutions to their issues.
- Twitter – I know this may feel like a daunting thing for some but twitter is fast becoming the place for networking, there is a strong PM network which can really give you a heads up to current practices, PM needs and building your network.
- Personal network – put the word about that you are available, people like nothing more than to help each other and you might just find you are being recommended for pieces of work or at the very least, being made aware of roles coming up which have yet to be advertised.
- Events – there’s a fair few free events across the country, even those run by APM have a low fee for their branch events. Meeting other professionals in the field and learning something too – what’s not good about that?
- Agencies – register with relevant agencies and try to make contact with a recruiter to get in their heads, make sure you know what you want to discuss and make a good impression. Databases are vast so it is ideal to be speaking with someone and keeping in regular contact to ensure they are keeping you in mind when new roles come in.
Make an effort to do more than just apply for roles online, demonstrate your tenacity, motivation and professionalism by taking extra steps to secure that next role.