Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When and How to Use Your Cover Letter to Explain Difficult Situations

The resume and cover letter should be viewed as a team. Rarely should you leave something out of your resume simply because you address it in your cover letter. However, there are a few situations that can not be adequately addressed using the resume alone. This is where a brief, well-written note in the cover letter can help overcome obstacles.

Long-term Unemployment
Whether your unemployment was a result of a lay-off, your own health concerns, family leave, or taking care of an ill relative, it is always a good idea to address gaps in employment on the resume. However, you can use the cover letter to overcome the fear that comes along with these issues for your potential employer.

Address your own health concerns in this way: "Although I have taken some time off to recover from a serious medical condition, I have now overcome these issues and have been given a clean bill of health. I kept my skills and knowledge current by participating in several industry groups, and am ready to return full-time to my career specialty." The bottom line is that you can use the cover letter to explain the absence - without providing unnecessary details - and overcome the employers' fear that this may be an issue again in the future.

Change in Career Directions
Most important in this case is to focus on your transferable skills in the resume to showcase how marketable you will be as a candidate. However, you can use your cover letter to further address why you are good fit for this new career field. Briefly address why you want to make the change and the skills and personal traits you can bring to your potential employer.

Unfocused Career History
Job hopping is a major red flag to an employer. Having multiple positions in multiple industries across a short period of time makes the employer fear you will not stay long-term. Once again, use the resume to show the most relevant and transferable skills to your new career focus as you highlight your previous employment.

Use your cover letter to express your focus on obtaining a long-term career with your target company. Use a statement like this to overcome the employers' fears. "Although for the last few years my career focus was not clear, I have now realized that (Insert Industry and Career Focus) is where I can put my skills, experience and personal traits to the best use. I am looking for a long-term position where I can bring my employer the benefits of my experience and enthusiasm as I continue to grow and learn."

If you are planning to relocate and are currently job hunting from another city or state, it is important that you clearly state your intent to relocate in the near future. If possible, it would be most beneficial to obtain a local address prior to job hunting. However, if that is not possible overcome the employers' fear with this type of statement. "Although I currently live and work in Arizona, it is my intent to permanently relocate to West Virginia to be closer to my family. I am available any time for a phone interview and can arrange an in-person interview with a bit more notice."

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