Cover letter with impact

Tree hit by lightning

Your cover letter can have incredible energy.

The best cover letter I ever heard of was a clean sheet of paper that literally only said,

“I can do that job.”

The resume beneath it was thoroughly read. The candidate was carefully considered. A cover letter can have no greater success.

I always read the first sentence or two of a cover letter. Unless I am intrigued, I never read more. I don’t have time to read that you work hard, like people, are a team player and deserve a chance. Everyone says that. It just proves you are average.

I thoroughly read cover letters that have useful gems in the first sentence. I keep reading sentence after sentence until it gets boring. A cover letter masterpiece has me convinced to do an interview before I see the resume. It extracts 2 or 3 gems from the person’s background and displays them briefly. I want those gems. I make a decision based on those gems of information.

If you explore beneath shyness or party chit-chat, you can sometimes turn a dull exchange into an intriguing one. I’ve found this particularly to be true in the case of professors or intellectuals, who are full of fascinating information, but need encouragement before they’ll divulge it. (Joyce Oates)

To discover gems in your background, ask yourself:

  1. Why haven’t they filled this job already?
  2. What are the most critical job skills?
  3. Which of those skills is hardest to find in the job market?
  4. What have I done that proves I am way better than average?

Now craft a single short sentence that shows you are exceptional.

Create 3 more on different subjects.

Now write several short cover letters based on those sentences. Make sure each sentence in the letter proves you are extraordinary.

I would be intrigued by your gem filled letter. I would decide to interview you before I even looked at the resume.


I know 4 people who have gotten jobs without a cover letter, and whose resume only said, “I can do that job.”  The only thing else on the resume was their contact info.  Do you say too much?

Something To Do Today

Hand your cover letter to a friend who is somewhat distracted. See how long it takes them to look like they are slogging through the letter. That’s where the boring stuff starts.

Mental Hygeine to Get a Job

lego man in a shower

Job search? Cleaning your mind may be the most critical part.

“Why are there no blacks and only 3 latinos out of 1200 employees?” I figured there was a good reason, and the president of the company gave me one.  However, a manager got me into his office and yelled at me.  He really yelled at me.  I had a choice to make as I got in my car.  Should I replay the incident over and over and get madder and madder, or should I concentrate on something else?

I chose badly for 15 minutes.  I got madder and madder.  Then I realized what I was doing.  I figured out that something must have triggered that outburst.  The president was not bothered by my question.  The manager that yelled at me was badly embarrassed.  I forgave him and started concentrating on something else, anything else.  In 10 minutes I was enjoying life on my terms again. And, yes, I found out three months later that they were now actively recruiting and training blacks specifically for that division.

Most jobs you apply for, you won’t get.  That’s just the statistical truth.  So how do you handle it when you lose?  You certainly have to notice what happened.  It is great to try to figure out what went wrong, if anything.  After you’ve evaluated what happened, start planning your next job success.

If you keep replaying every negative thing that happens while searching for a job, you’ll go crazy.  When you concentrate on what went well, you reinforce your positive behaviors.  When you relive the things that went wrong, you reinforce the negative. You also feel worse.  Work at feeling better.

My wife is a good piano and organ player.  When she is learning a new piece she is careful NOT to practice known mistakes over and over.  She slows way down and practices it right.  Then she speeds up.  In her mind and in her fingers she concentrates on minor victories.  It can take her a month of practicing 2 to 4 hours a day to get a piece just right.  She’d go crazy if she concentrated on her mistakes.  She enjoys practicing because she celebrates every minor success.  She can find a success every minute.

You need to look for successes in your job hunting. If there is something you know you did wrong, slow down.  Instead of rehearsing the errors in your mind, mentally see yourself doing it right.  Find a quiet place and relax.  See yourself correcting mistakes and getting a positive response.

If someone else screwed up, slow down.  Concentrate on what you did right.  You can’t control the other person.  You can’t change history.  You can find a quiet place and relax.  You can rehearse in your mind what you did right.  In your mind you can practice correcting any mistakes you made.

Good mental hygiene is the difference between self improvement and self destruction. It also just plain feels better.

Something To Do Today

Get the book Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  It has a lot of great ideas about how to control your thoughts and happiness.

Go to and find a place you can help someone else.  It will help.


Next:     Cover letter anesthesia

Absolute Proof: it is time to leave your job

Man working painting a pipe on an amazing mountain.

The most amazing place to work for another person, may not be yours.

Ron has absolutely, positively and without a doubt overstayed his current job.  He has finally admitted it to himself, so he called me.  He will be sending me his resume this week.  I also asked him to talk to his current boss and let him know the situation.  His current boss may be able to move him to a job that will completely solve his problem.

This revelation came indirectly from his boss.  Ron has been living 800 miles away from his home.  It’s a great opportunity.  The money is good.  He likes the job and who he works for.  The revelation came when he was told, “It’s time for you to sell your home and move the whole family up here.”

Ron realized he would NOT reapply for the job he has.  He doesn’t want to move.  At first it seemed like a good idea, but things have changed.  He doesn’t want to live in the city he is working in anymore.

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else. (James Barrie)

Is it time for you to leave your job?  Ask these two questions:

  1. Would I apply for any job at my current company?
  2. Would I apply for my current job?

If you are in the wrong company, start your job search today.

If your company is fine but your job is bad, talk to your boss.  Network within your company.  See if there is a better job within.  Also start looking outside the company.  Even if you stay with your company, it will open your eyes to how good or bad you really have it.

If you wouldn’t apply for your current job, it is absolutely positively time to leave.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal answer those two questions.  Give 5 reasons why you answered each one “yes” or “no”.  Writing it down will help clarify your thinking.


Next:     Mental hygiene

Cover letter anesthesia

Guts and Glory Job Search

Knights charging into battle

Do you want what you earn from a “guts and glory” job search?

A 5000 email spam campaign may get you a job.  That’s why there are people who will legitimately email or fax your resume to a boatload of recruiters.  If you want to spend the money on it, go ahead.

But the risk and reward are small.

Putting your resume on a hundred job boards may get you a job.  I used to have a link to Resume Rabbit, who would do it.  If you want to spend the money, go ahead.

But there is no hard work and little reward.

The Guts and Glory way

How to REALLY get a great job is personal contact. Here’s why: if I put an ad in LinkedIn or on a job board, 50 to 1000 job seekers will reply.  Most of those will be unqualified for the job.  Basically, I have to wade through spam to get a few gems. Similarly, last week the same resume was sent to me 5 times.  It was from a guy in Texas who tries to hide where he is from so I will call him with a job “anywhere in the US”.  It is spam.  I delete a lot of spammed resumes.  I call 1 out of 50 of them.

The people who get my attention every time are:

  1. Recommended to me by their friends, or
  2. Call me personally and introduce themselves, or
  3. Are recruited by me when I call them directly at their jobs.

All three are guts and glory ways of contacting someone.  Getting a friend to recommend you or calling yourself is a very high risk and high reward way of looking for a job.  Sending an email or applying online is a no risk and very low reward way of looking for a job.

Cowardice is too strong of a word, but an effective one.  Email is not cowardly, it is just the least effective avenue of attack you have.

Personal calls and recommendations from friends are the most effective way to get that job you really want.  Hiring managers insulate themselves from job hunters so they aren’t bothered by unqualified and ill prepared job seekers.  If you are absolutely qualified and prepared why not use the absolutely most effective job hunting techniques you can?

Do a search for “networking” on my blog site archives.  I have written a lot of articles on how you can find the people you need to contact.  Look for a title that includes “networking”.

The easiest way, however, is just to call the company.  Ask, “Who is in charge of US sales?” or, “Who is the head of computer programming?”, or “Which VP runs commercial lending?”  Then call that person and ask them what you can do for them.  Say, “I’m Jim Tarrington.  At my company I report to the guy who does your job.  I’m looking for a job.  Is there a place I would fit into your group?”  Then listen.

Try a high contact, high risk, and high reward way to job search.  Give it a shot.

Something To Do Today

Which 3 companies would you most like to work for?  Or, which 3 advertised jobs do you want the most?  Get a friend to recommend you, or call in yourself.


Tomorrow:     Absolute proof it is time to leave your job

3 most critical words on your resume

job related words in a mass of confusion

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. (Mark Twain)

3 critical words

12 words is the most that people will read on a billboard.

(That was 12 words.)

1 ½ or 2 inches of print is what most people read at a glance.

12 to 15 seconds is all the time a resume normally gets in a screener’s hands before it is trashed or put in the “review” pile.

3 critical words can make or break your resume.

How to get your point across in a resume

Worry about the first 3 words people read in every paragraph and bullet point.  Those are the critical words that have to drag the resume reviewer into the rest of the line.  Think of the hiring manager.  What action, accomplishment or benefit can he see in the first 3 words?

Can’t do it?  Get a thesaurus, or use the one in your word processor.  Find the main word in that paragraph, find a high impact word to replace it with, and put that word in the first 3 words of the paragraph.  In most cases it is better to break any paragraph over 3 lines long into bullet points.  Long paragraphs are intimidating.  Reviewers don’t want to read them.  Make sure you worry about the first 3 words in every bullet point.

3 words can make or break your job search.  Work on them.

Something To Do Today

Take an electronic copy of your resume and delete everything except for the first 3 words of each paragraph or bullet point.  Leave the spacing and formatting the same.  There will be a lot of white space and blank lines.  Print it out. Put it face down on your desk.

Come back tomorrow and look at the skeleton you created.  What is its impact?  Fix it.


Tomorrow:     email exploitation and cowardice

Later:              Absolute proof it is time to leave your job

How to tell if you should be a CEO

Woman on a ladder of success

Is your ladder to success helping you climb the right wall?

Too many people climb the ladder of success, only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall. (unkn)

Should you be a CEO?

Jim just took a job as a manager of a small company.  He’s been a CEO before.  He took the lowly manager’s job because he likes it better than being CEO.  He didn’t even put his CEO experience on his resume. He got the “lowly” job he really wants because he left the word CEO off his resume.

I can tell you the same story, with the exact opposite twist, of technicians and engineers who worked their way up the technical ladder, only to finally figure out that they should have quit and gone to work as the CEO of a small company.  These are guys making $150,000+ as technicians.  Not bad money at all.

There’s a way to find out if you really, truly, in your gut would like to be a CEO.  Get a couple of practice jobs.  First, become a team leader or manager where you are. Also get involved in your local or national trade association.  While you are at it, volunteer to head a charity organization.  Your local school has a PTO, swim team boosters, band boosters, etc.  The YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and Scouts all need people who are leaders. Another great way is to run for the school board, town council or state legislature.

Leading any of these organizations will help you see if you like management.  In them you need to set your own goals and agenda.  You need to persuade people to work with you.  Selling others on your ideas is essential. You’ll also build a network of people who can help you become a CEO.  You’ll get to show true executive leadership.

If you talk to CEO’s, you’ll find that many of them evaluate executives in their own and in supplier companies by how they perform in volunteer posts.  Being a CEO isn’t just telling people what to do.  It also includes creating a network that will draw talent and contracts to your company.

If you want to be a CEO, get started now.  There are teams, associations, charitable organizations and political organizations looking for leaders.

And pay attention.  Being CEO may not be for you.

Something To Do Today

If you have any desire to be a manager or a leader, make a list of places where your leadership

could have an effect.  Go out and get started in those organizations.  You could easily be the “CEO” in 2 years.


Later:                          3 critical words on your resume

email exploitation

Absolute proof it is time to leave your job

Learn job search success – from a baby

A baby doesn't over think it.

Any win, no matter how small, makes a baby happy.

You may not have searched for a job for years.  You need to learn something from a baby.

If you touch a newborn baby’s cheek, its head turns in that direction.  Often the head goes back and forth as the baby tries to find and suck on whatever touched its cheek.  A baby old enough to try to grab something reaches for its goal and misses.  The baby’s hand goes past the object, then corrects too far the other direction, then again goes past the object. Eventually the baby grasps the object victoriously and smiles.  The baby doesn’t cry because he over-corrected five times or only has one toy in his hand. He coos in triumph.  It is time to enjoy this feat, not worry about the next challenge.

Job hunting triumphs come often.  Getting a job is always the cumulative result of a hundred victories.  Those victories should be celebrated over and over in your mind. Yes, you need to notice that you failed to finish the next step, but you shouldn’t focus on a defeat and exclude the victories leading up to that step.

If you send out 100 resumes and get 3 phone calls, you succeeded 103 times!  You sent out 100 resumes, a feat many job seekers never equal.  You also got 3 calls from your resume.  It worked.

You called 10 recruiting shops and 1 invited you in for an interview.  10 calls is a great adventure, and one success in 10 calls is wonderful.  Securites salespeople often make 200 calls in a day with absolutely no success.  Getting one interview is great.  Making 10 calls is a victory.

I had an executive make it to the final list of 3 candidates for a high level job.  Another candidate was chosen.  All he could see was that for the 7th time in 3 months he had failed to get the job. He could not focus on some delightful facts:

  1. He was referred to me by his network.
  2. His resume was very good.
  3. I thought highly enough of him to recommend him.
  4. He got the first phone interview.
  5. An executive flew across the country to interview him.
  6. He came to the facility he would lead and passed 6 more interviews.
  7. He made it to the short list of final candidates.

What a monumental chain of victories!  This was a phenomenal set of accomplishments.  Yet, he couldn’t see his successes when the process was done.  All he looked at was that he missed the final cut.  He got depressed and self critical.  It got so bad that I couldn’t recommend him to another company.  He took a job he dislikes with a company he doesn’t respect.  That job lets him stop the pain of focusing on his occasional failures. He was not desperate financially.  He was desperate to win because he stopped seeing his successes.

Watch a baby closely the next time you have a chance.  Notice their absolute delight in grasping a rattle or teething ring.  They are thrilled and fling their chubby hands around with the object they won.  Nothing could be more glorious.  Right now they are focusing on success.  They aren’t worried about the next step.  They got one thing right.

Take the time to relive your successes every hour of your job search.  You will find your attitude soars.  You don’t make the cut?  Relive every successful step getting there.  Include finding out about the job, applying, getting a call, arriving on time, etc.  All those are feats showing your prowess.  Go ahead relive them in your mind. You deserve it.

Something To Do Today

Get your job journal out.  List the 3 jobs you have gotten closest to winning.  Even if it was just making a phone call or sending a resume.  List all the steps you executed successfully to get to that point.  Include all the little ones.  Relive those successes.  “You done good, little fella.”

Next:            Why not go for the CEO job ?

Later:           3 critical words

Can you fit into the company culture?

pro wrestler jumping

In a company you get used to the most amazing things after a short time.

Wrestlers in feather boas and getting the right job

Everyone knows you can’t run for Governor and expect to win if you are a professional wrestler who wears feather boas. It is worse if you are a radio talk show host who is conservative AND liberal at the same time.  Jesse Ventura became a Governor by being all these things.  He got a lot of politicians upset and confused.  He also did a great job of running the state. But, less than half the people voted for him.

My coworkers and I offend some people. We do it by being ourselves.  We are not purposely obnoxious. We are friendly and inoffensive by our standards.  We just believe in being open, honest, and having fun.  We have a theory that we can either try to be bland inoffensive gray, or we can enjoy work being just who we are. We can’t do both.  We have found a LOT of people who like it when we are ourselves.  Even the candidates who literally leave our office in tears because we are candid with them, send their friends to us.  But some people refuse to do business with us.  We choose to pay that price.

We don’t set out to be obnoxious.  Neither should you.  If that nose jewel is just an accessory, don’t wear it to the interview.  If you will not work without it, wear it. The same thing goes for a beard. Dress up in the best way you know how for an interview.  Make your resume as professional AND personal as possible.  Use good manners always.  Be honest. Be yourself. Also understand that whether you dress very conservatively or outrageously, you will be judged as a bad fit for some jobs. Just make the choice consciously.

It is wonderful how quickly you get used to things, even the most astonishing. (Edith Nesbitt)

There are jobs for programmers, salespeople, bankers and accountants in very conservative companies.  The jobs also exist in companies that have bizarre office paint jobs, people with pink hair and pierced tongues, and parking lot hockey games at lunch.  I can point out such companies deep in Amish country in Lancaster, PA. All companies want team players who fit into their very different cultures.

Let’s be honest.  The more unusual you are, the more exceptional your accomplishments have to be.  Don’t set out to offend or shock people.  Be as nice and sociable as you can.  Fit in with company culture wherever possible.  Just don’t be afraid to be a little different, to be yourself.

Something To Do Today

Call my office after 6 pm and go to my voice mail. (717)975-9001.  Bryan Dilts is the name. I change my message occassionally.  My message is “very unprofessional” according to many. It also sets me apart in the minds of people who hear it.


Tomorrow:      Corrections – a newborn’s grasp

Later:               Why not go for the CEO job ?

Hirers hate resumes without clear facts

watch distorted by being underwater

Does your resume make it hard to see the most important facts?

Facts would be nice

Even job seekers with great experience hide their best qualities.  Here are a few ways they do it.

No facts, just brag

Do you say, “I am wonderful, amazing, lovable, creative, entertaining, and good????”.

Stephen King, author of more than 30 best selling horror books, wrote a book on writing.  He says, “Get rid of adjectives.”  This top author refuse to write, “She stealthily crept down the spooky staircase which creaked ominously.” Instead of using adjectives, he just tells what his character does, “She crept down the stairs.”  He says the toughest thing he has to do in his writing is to remove all the adjectives. Just give the facts.

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.  (Mark Twain)

You say what everyone else also says

I’m still waiting to see a resume that states:  “I hate to work hard.  I disrupt every team. I am a pig.  I never take initiative.  I lie constantly.  I never hit my deadlines.”

I actually get that have half a page that states: “I work hard.  I am a team player. I am neat.  I take initiative.  I am honest.  I do assignments on time.”  Those paragraphs never give me any facts, so I don’t read them.

Set yourself apart

What I really want to know is: What is different because you were there?

Set yourself apart from the other 40 people applying for a job.  Use every inch of your resume to state things you have actually done.  State facts like:

         I carried a beeper and was on-call for 3 years.

         I worked late for two months to help a different team finish the Simpson Project.

         I received an award for having the neatest desk.

         I kept our biggest customer from losing $500,000 by shipping their widgets overnight, without being authorized to, because my boss was on vacation.

         I estimated my last project at 715 hours and completed it in 690 hours at $4,000 under budget.

Think about what your new boss REALLY wants

Would you rather hire someone who says, “I work hard” or someone who says, “I carried a beeper and was on-call for 3 years”?

If you write your resume like Stephen King writes his novels, you’ll get more interviews. Give the facts about what you’ve done.  Let the hiring manager use a red pen to add comments to your resume like: hard worker, takes initiative and hits deadlines.

Something To Do Today

Grab your resume and a ruler.  How many inches of text describe you without giving facts?  Many resumes have more hot air than facts.  Literally.

As fast as you can, cut your resume down to nothing but facts.  Add facts in bullet points.  Don’t worry about the relevance of the facts.  Act quickly.  See if you can create a long “facts only” resume in less than half an hour.

Now take a break until tomorrow.  Then fix that resume so that it can be used.


Soon:                  Wrestlers in feather boas

Later:                  Corrections – a newborn’s grasp

Best resume advice in one minute

baby held by happy grandpa

Bing Crosby gave a one minute resume update lesson.

Check it out here.