Once upon a time, job seekers were taught a certain code of conduct. Although most modern job seekers today have abandoned these practices, the strategies are more important than ever. However, the REASONS behind the importance have changed.
Submitting a cover letter
Depending on who you ask, a cover letter is either essential or a waste of time. If it’s done correctly, a cover letter can actually help win the interview.
The Old Reason: not only was this traditional, it was also considered a writing sample from the candidate. If a job seeker couldn’t draft a properly formatted and written business letter, they often did not progress in the screening process.
The New Reason: cover letters are still a writing sample, but the focus has changed into what you can actually do for the company. Since fewer candidates are bothering to send in cover letters, taking the extra effort can elevate your position in the screening stack. Plus, going to extra mile to research the company and concentrate on their specific market, challenges, or successes can do a lot to persuade a jaded audience.
Bringing a copy of your resume to the interview
This used to seem like a redundant activity, because the company should have your resume from your application.
The Old Reason: providing additional resume copies printed on formal resume paper to demonstrate that you are serious about the job. Plus, it gave you a chance to review your own resume while waiting in the lobby.
The New Reason: because of app-based recruiting like Indeed.com and LinkedIn.com, companies may not be receiving your resume automatically. In fact, both of those sites want to send their default formats (Indeed sends their own online application and LinkedIn sends your profile). It actually takes an extra step to send your Word or PDF resume through either one of those websites. Those different applications won’t look anything like your resume, so bringing a physical copy to hand to the interviewer may actually be new information for them – or at least a prettier format.
Similarly, applying through the company’s website is no guarantee that they will receive your resume exactly the way it looks to you. Many employers’ applicant tracking systems (ATS) or online applications will deconstruct your resume to fit the information into their forms. When it spits out a candidate, the format may be destroyed. While this problem has improved over the past 10 years, it is still a possibility.
Bringing samples of your work
With the rise of online profiles and personal websites, many job seekers have abandoned bringing samples of their work or even letters of recommendation to the interview.
The Old Reason: job seekers used to bring a “brag book” filled with their samples, awards, and recommendations to prove their effectiveness.
The New Reason: believe it or not, a hiring manager may not have had the time to fully review your online portfolio before meeting with you. It’s best to bring a few extra materials to show the manager to act as proof of your expertise. It’s not necessary to bring every single thing you’ve ever done. Even if you do have an online portfolio or additional recommendations on LinkedIn, bring physical copies of 2-3 of your best examples to highlight your expertise.
Leaving a list of references
While some job seekers think that references are only necessary if requested on the application, this document can actually be a powerful branding statement.
The Old Reason: offering the hiring manager a list of your references at the end of the interview let him or her know that you were a serious candidate with a verifiable work history.
The New Reason: reference pages can offer a lot more insight than just names, phone numbers, and email addresses. First, consider the quality of your references. People are judged by their associates, so if your list includes top leaders from your past employers or within your industry, it reflects positively on you. Including a link to their LinkedIn profile can help establish the quality of your next work as well. When formatting the actual references page, use the same style as your resume to reinforce your personal brand. Next, add extra information for each reference, such as how they know you and how long your professional relationship has lasted. Finally, leaving a professional references page shows that you are fully prepared for every step of the job search process.
Send a thank you note
Only 10% of job seekers bother to send a thank you note after an interview, so this simple courtesy will automatically help you stand out from the crowd.
The Old Reason: to show interest in the position and indicate your gratitude while practicing traditional business etiquette.
The New Reason: pitch yourself for the job. A solid thank you note should include one to two reminders of high points from your interview to reiterate why you are a great candidate. Another bonus is that the notes can be staggered. Send a thank you via email immediately after the interview to express gratitude, then follow-up with a physical card as well. That way, when the hiring manager is making decisions, he or she will receive the card 2 – 3 days after your interview. It will remind them not only of your strengths but about your entire presentation as a candidate.