Dated July 27, 2005
(Questions answered on career concerns)
I am planning to send my résumé to a few companies. Please give some tips on writing an effective covering letter.
If you decide to include a cover letter along with your résumé, here are a few ideas:
Address your letter to a specific person by name, if possible
The first few words are important. They should attract the reader's attention at once
Tell your story in terms of the contributions you can make to the employer; emphasise how your skills and experience match the job requirements
Refer to your application and résumé. They give the facts
Use simple, direct language and correct grammar and spelling. Avoid hackneyed expressions and type the content or word process neatly
Keep it short. Your letter should sum up what you can offer and act as an "introduction card" for your résumé and application
Let the letter reflect your individuality, but avoid appearing aggressive, overbearing, familiar, cute, or humorous. You are writing to a stranger about a subject that is serious to both of you
Another effective written tool is the use of a thank you letter. It is appropriate to send a brief note of thanks letter after an interview. It gives you a chance to show your strong interest in a job or to emphasise specific skills or experiences. This is also an opportunity to include information you may have missed to make a mention in the interview. The most important aspect of the thank you letter is not so much in what you say, but in the fact that you cared enough to send it. The letter should be brief and to the point. Of course, it should be typed or word processed, with correct grammar and spelling.
What should I answer when an interviewer asks, "How do you handle pressure? Support your responses with good examples."
By asking such question, interviewers try to assess your ability to handle work pressure. You can answer saying, stress is very important to me. With stress, I do the best possible job. The appropriate way I deal with stress is make sure I have the correct balance between good stress and bad stress. I need good stress to stay motivated and productive.
I react to situations, rather than to stress. The point is if you handle a situation appropriately, the situation would not go out of hand and become stressful.
I actually work better under pressure and have found that I enjoy working in a challenging environment.
From a personal perspective, I manage stress by visiting the gym every evening. It's a great stress reliever.
Prioritising my responsibilities so that I have a clear idea of what needs to be done and when has helped me manage job pressure effectively.
If the people I am managing add to my stress level, I discuss options for better handling of difficult situations with them.
So, it's a good idea to give examples of how you have handled stress to your interviewer. That way, they get a clear picture of how well you can work in stressful situations.
M S SARMA
Often, age-related questions have little to do with discrimination. Interviewers probably just want to know if you would fit their work environment. Your best bet is to respond to the concern behind the question. Highlight your enthusiasm for the chance to learn from others of all ages. It's likely that you've had younger colleagues or supervisors in the past. Mention how well this has worked for you. Say that you think work benefits when people of all ages contribute.
However, there are cases when age-related questions could be a subtle form of age discrimination. If the interviewer seems particularly antagonistic, or over-emphasises that point, it could give you a clue what his real feelings are. In such instances, there is little you can do except cross your fingers and hope for the best.
I have read in these columns that one should ask the interviewer questions. But, what sort of questions are safe to ask?
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