Cover Letters and Interviews: What is the Job Market Now?

This professional development session will lead participants through creating short and effective cover letters, in discussing why cover letters are important, and will engage in strategies for successful interviews, whether they be in person, over video conference software, or over phone. I will not have all the answers, so this will be a participatory session for presenter and attendees to generate strategies that we can share widely. This session is for everyone: EMP's, Mid-Level Career Professionals, or Veterans in the field, since there may be anytime that somone will be on the job market, and our discussion will rely on your thoughts and ideas. Track:Professional Development


Unknown Speaker 17:05
We will get started pretty quickly just because we have a take 45 minutes and I just wanna make sure everybody can see the slides that that I'm presenting because I'm seeing 23 One Carlos interviews. What is the job market now you can put in the chat? Yes or thank you for the thumbs up killer. Great. Excellent. All right. So yeah, this is cover letters and interviews. What is the job market now? I'm Max Evjen. I'm an academic specialist at Michigan State University and which Michigan State University occupies the ancestral traditional and contemporary lands of the Anishinabeg three fires confederacy of the addition of a Potawatomi peoples and the university resides on land seated in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw and I live and work on that same land. Something that I'm tuning into you now from that I'm a white male with glasses. Mostly clean shaven except apples double longest wavy, dark hair with gray in it. I'm sitting in an office in my bedroom. Not bedroom either in my office in my house. And okay, so then why am I here? Talking about cover letters and interviews and why do I think I can talk about this? Well, years ago when I was applying for museum jobs. I got a lot of competing advice about what I should be doing and how I should be representing myself and I have a very kind of wide, weird background in terms of my work experience. And I had some people telling me oh, you have to parse things out and fill out a resume that only has this thing part of your experience of this part, your experience. And then somebody said no, no, you got to tell the story of what your whole trajectory is that everything leads to this. And once I once I started to do that, and they started to construct a cover letter, I was applying for jobs like crazy and not getting anywhere with anything. And once I started to do this and write a cover letter that actually talked about my career trajectory, and was pity enough to be on a page. Then I started to get interviews, like crazy, like tons of interviews, and it really it coincided with DEAI. So I wouldn't necessarily say causation, but there was a strong correlation I'd say and and and from my own experience as a hiring manager, I can tell you that when I read cover letters, these are the kinds of things that I actually look for. So yeah, so here is the slides. Why Why should you create a cover letter in the first place? Right? Because this my thoughts are the resume alone doesn't address your career trajectory. It will tell you about work experience, but that doesn't tell you where somebody is going and what goals they have and where they want to be right and how that relates to the position they're applying for. The resume alone does not address why one is applying for the position in the first place. Just get a resume doesn't mean that they necessarily have any interest in the organization at all. Resume alone doesn't address your communication style of you. It doesn't represent like how that should be. That should be something that shows people how you write and and what kind of communication style you have. So let's talk about how do you create a good cover letter. And we're just going to run really quick through through my my sort of form of what a cover letter should look like. So here is the what i've what I want to talk to you it's what I think the cover letter should be. It should be one page. I know a lot of times people were saying oh you can do one of two pages. Two pages. Isn't a deal breaker but I challenge everybody here to try to express what needs to be expressed in this in such a curt and pithy way, an elegant way that it can fit onto one page. You can play with font size, but I would keep it was the smallest that we make it is 11 Yeah. So the first thing is, dear whoever if there's a person listed on the job call, then you can address it to that person. Do not use gender specific things like Mr. or Mrs. It's if there's a main use it, otherwise use hiring manager never to whom it may concern. It's always at the person that was there. If the person isn't there, then it's the hiring manager. Right that's Are you addressing it? To

Unknown Speaker 21:53
tell them the next thing is below, dear whoever It's your name. My name is Max Evjen. I'm applying for bit for this position. You have to say what the position is because it aligns with your education and experience doing why right whatever that is. Quick little lines, like two to three sentences on. This is where I got my education and this is my experience. Right. The next paragraph three to four sentences of what really is your education and experience what did you do right in your education and experience? Right? It's it's, I went to the school or I got this degree from here, and I been working at this place back here as what I did in the degree and here's what I did, in in this job, right, just about three to four sentences total. Three, four sentences next on how your how the position aligns to your career trajectory, and how it's the ideal opportunity for you. So this is where you put in things about specific things about the job call certain bullet points that they have, go ahead and address those things. You can't address all of them, but address some of the core things that might relate to other aspects of the of the job call and and talk about how how those those things aligned to your career trajectory where you're trying to go and the next one is how you have the skills and experience necessary to bring success to the organization. Talk about what skill sets you have, what are the things that you're going to do to help lead that organization to the next chapter, whatever that's going to be right. And that again, is another three to four sentences, and then at the very end, thank you your email your phone number where you can be reached and look forward to hearing from them

Unknown Speaker 23:45
done. Any questions about the cover letter?

Unknown Speaker 23:53
And I like I said I have experienced both as somebody applying for positions I also have an experience as a hiring manager and whenever I could see somebody writing a cover letter usually if it was like one tip page, like I said two pages is okay. But something that's pithy enough and clear enough and elegant enough to be explained like in a very succinct manner is is very attractive. Right? You can read through it that makes sense to you as a hiring manager like you understand what some what somebody's trying to achieve. Yeah, so any any questions about that specifically? Any other ideas? as well? We're not going to get to their ideas, too. But these are this is this is this is the secret sauce of what I used when I was applying for for for jobs before when I was getting a lot a lot a lot of interviews. Yeah, so again, if the dear whoever maybe you have an aim for a hiring manager, not to me, sir. Koven says I'd also say at the cover letter, is there one place that the hiring manager can really evaluate your writing communication style? Yeah, that's the point that I was making before in the previous slide, but that's the only place where somebody can actually see Yeah, like how you actually write, because I'm not really gonna see that in your resume. That's a resume is kind of a list. Allison, I have a question.

Unknown Speaker 25:19
Yeah, thanks, Max. I would ask him the cover letter, which, regarding your experience specifics, would you use that as an opportunity to

Unknown Speaker 25:28
mention key projects for specific notable experiences or lists like specific skills or kind of high level experiences that would be relevant to the job like what would you favor in that context? Yeah. Okay, in number three, that's where you talk about your projects. That's educational experience, the main project that that relate to the position, right. And then number five is what skills you have.

Unknown Speaker 25:57
That makes sense. So,

Unknown Speaker 26:02
so it's both because you do need to place for both and but but you know, you have to really, like you have to be able to express what those skills are in about a sentence.

Unknown Speaker 26:11
Right? Like,

Unknown Speaker 26:15
you know, it's like three to four sentences, but you know, you anything that you write ask for how you can make it shorter.

Unknown Speaker 26:25
Always. Right. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 26:29
So yeah. So you for your education experience in the third paragraph in the fourth paragraph, how the position aligns to your career trajectory. So you're talking about what your goals are. They need to know that and how this is an ideal opportunity for you because it matches your goals. Right? And then how you have the skills and experience necessary to help them right and what you can offer them and then there's the Thank you. And you know, phone number,

Unknown Speaker 27:00
where you can be reached. Any other quick questions before we move on?

Unknown Speaker 27:10
Okay, let's go over here. Okay, interviews so you get the interview. Right. And the one key thing that I want you all to remember when you're in any interview for any position ever, is that you are interviewing them to see if you want to work with them. That's a hard thing to wrap your head around. I know. We all are thinking we have to ace the interview and be awesome. And yes, you do. But you're also you really need to treat this as a situation where you're interviewing them to see if that's a good place you want to work. So, if you're going to do that, you need to write 10 questions in advance of your interview. Go right on one to 10 and start asking questions. One of my favorites is to ask them to describe their company culture. What they tell you is either going to be true or not true, but it will give you a sense of what people are talking about their own with their own organization and what they think it is right. And short of getting an internship with an organization you have precious little opportunity to actually see what the culture is before getting into the organization to actually see what the culture is like and the culture drives everything is a quote from can remember who said it, but I'm sure somebody else and tell me about culture eats strategy for breakfast. It does. And so you need to know what the culture is of the organization and what and how people who work there talking about it. I also like asking about like if they're in the midst of strategy development, or if they're in the middle of it, if they're in the usable part of it and one of their strategic goals and or if they don't have one right now, how far off are they from their most recent strategic one? Strategic Plan because that needs to

Unknown Speaker 29:05
tell you what,

Unknown Speaker 29:09
it'll tell you where they're putting resources right? And if you're in a place where those resources are being matched, so Oh, covenant know that your comments are great. The cover letter can help tie together previous experiences such projects with a narrative that might not otherwise be obvious in the CD itself to for instance, if you're we're working on accessibility across MANY of the projects and your resume, the cover letter is a good place to do that. He thinks the cover letter helps to show how you make sense of your career. I couldn't agree more. So thank you COVID. Seriously, in fact, we're going to have time for discussion too and just that and any notes anybody wants to add to the chat or to stop me in the middle of what I'm talking about please do this. This is not really meant for me to be so much talking at you. I'm only doing that because we have so little time. So and when you're in the interview before the interview, look up their their website of course and dig into what they're doing and what projects they're working on. Look at the position what the position you're applying for, like how that intersects with what you see on the website. Look at their 990 Take dig into like where they're really putting resources you can see where where money's being spent and how money's being made by the organization. And really look at it does, does the does what they talked about with the strategy really match where they're putting the resources or has it for the last year, the most recent line and you can see is about a year and a half old so you got to take that into account and look at other places like what are people saying about the demo online? Like in the news like what are they in the news for any reason, good or bad? And like what's, what's happening there, you know, so that will inform any of those questions that you have. So and then during the course of your interview that is in the discussion that you have, that there might be opportunity to cover a good like five of your questions. Six of your questions, maybe, but or or, you know, four or five, right? And the good thing is that there's nothing worse for somebody, if I'm interviewing them and ask them if I if you have any more questions and they don't have any. This way you have like five questions more. So if they say you have any questions, but yes, I do. I want to know about X, Y and Z. Right? You have to have those right. So I'm not kidding about this. You have to have 10 questions. Before you go into any interview with somebody.

Unknown Speaker 31:34
Okay, let's move on a little bit.

Unknown Speaker 31:36
Okay, if you're doing an in person interview, right, or if you're doing a video conference, right? dress for the job you want right that's it. That's advice people have given me over the years right. And I will say dress what you think the job is? Right? Because I there was one point where I was interviewing for a position with a with an organization that their culture was such that people just wore like Hawaiian shorts. So I have so I have shirts and shorts to work, right? Like, it was very not traditional. And I would show up in these interviews in a suit. And they would say why are you wearing a suit? And I'd say well, this is a program manager position. This is a thing where I had to organize all this stuff. And most of the time I'm not going to be doing what you do. I'm doing this other stuff. So I'm that's what I think the job is and they're like,

Unknown Speaker 32:33
oh, okay, right.

Unknown Speaker 32:38
And that that was an acceptable answer to these nice people. Right. But you know, it'll be interesting to see like what the different organizations have different cultures and they'll be expressed in in different ways, like how people are dressed like how people conduct themselves. In addition to where are they spending resources and what they're doing. Okay, early is on time. Always. Don't be late. Don't try to get if the if the interview is from 1pm. Don't be ready for the interview. At one be ready for the interview at

Unknown Speaker 33:15
1235 1250. Right? Just

Unknown Speaker 33:19
be early. And what I mean by that is like, even if it's video conference, you might you don't have to be like in the video conference, but you should be at your desk and waiting and ready. Five minutes before bring something to write with. To take notes or to doodle or sketch note whatever you want. To do. Just make sure you have something to write with. So you have something to refer back to bring any examples of your work or share them in a chat or whatever, if it's applicable to the position right and have those prepared so that you're ready to share them. And lastly, in caps, bring your 10 questions, make sure you have them with you. How do you suggest gracefully handling salary, the salary question when it comes up quite early in the interview process? We're going to get to that any questions about the in person before we move on? But thank you for your question. Kate, we are going

Unknown Speaker 34:14
to address that. Okay,

Unknown Speaker 34:19
let's talk about over the phone enemies over the phone. Again, dress for the job you want even if it's over the phone because there's a lot of research in theater and I teach in theater and I've got a background in theater that putting on the costume or putting on the mask puts you in the mode of being the character and that is true. There is research done on this and yes, it's absolutely true. So get yourself set for what this is supposed to be before you get them to get on the phone. Again early is on time be ready for the call before the call comes. Right. And here's the other one. Stand up while you're on the phone if you can stand up. I understand plenty of people. It's not a possibility. But even if you can't smile when you're talking and you're gonna ask why do you need to smile if you're on the phone? Okay, well if I'm talking to you like this, or if I'm talking to you like this did you notice the difference of the sound?

Unknown Speaker 35:29
It's slight, but

Unknown Speaker 35:32
you're the timbre of your voice physically changes when you smile while you're talking while you're talking. So, when you're on the phone, make sure you're smiling it's okay if it's forced, but you have to. You need to do that so that your voice your voice gets the clarity to your voice that you get when you're smiling, and then have your 10 questions at the ready Are you sensing anything? You gotta have those questions. For the phone interview for anything. It's super important for you to have them.

Unknown Speaker 36:09

Unknown Speaker 36:10
the offer I thought I'd be talking about the salary stuff you need to figure out in advance what your minimum salary and benefit requirements are. I know it's not easy thing to do. But think about this. Do you not have health insurance and you need it? In our culture in this country? Health insurance is tied to employment. So that's a real question.

Unknown Speaker 36:35

Unknown Speaker 36:36
that you want to figure out in that you want to figure out like, do you need to be the main breadwinner in your family? Do you need to have this much to live to support what your lifestyle is? Right? What is that number and what is the lowest number you can go right? So because you need to know that low that low number. The reason you didn't know that low number is for that last point there is that more often than not, you're going to enter into a negotiation. Now, we're going to put a little asterisk on this because I know there's weird things around it. But in any negotiation, you have your power position is that you have to be willing to walk away. You have to go that's not for me and walk away. And I know that's really hard, especially when you're in a job recruitment situation and you're interviewing for it. And they're giving you an offer and they're putting that out there. You really want to take it but you have to be willing to walk away because they're probably going to offer you they're less likely but they're gonna offer you something as a negotiation. You also need to know if they if they list a salary range in advance, because if you want if you're gonna make a case for for, for how much more over your minimum you're going to request you need that it needs to be within the range if you go the standard range because if you if you go to that and say no, it's it's way above that, that's probably not a great thing for them. But you can make a case for here's the range and I should be

Unknown Speaker 38:14
up here. And this is why right?

Unknown Speaker 38:18
And come up with those reasons that your educational experience what you've done, puts you in that position so that you're prepared to talk about that in during the offer. And here's the sticky part. It's I'm saying kind of the first offer just do it. More often than not people are trying to make a negotiation and they're looking to state something that they're trying to get you for the good price right. So counter with something right if you if you know what the range is, then you can you can you can count her up right with that, other currencies to Max's point. This is particularly true for jobs that universities often those classifications are very hard ceilings and floors you can usually find out in advance what those are. Yeah, you some museum jobs are staining ranges, but academic jobs for sure. State ranges right and and those oftentimes depending on the organization, those ranges can be very hard and fast. Right. So you need to figure out what those are but but you can make make that that argument for I should be higher in this range for this reason. Does that all make sense? And does that answer it any of your points that you want to know

Unknown Speaker 39:39
about? Kate?

Unknown Speaker 39:42
And Marie Louise says particularly in government funded institutions

Unknown Speaker 39:52
Yes, thank you, Max.

Unknown Speaker 39:54
I also want to know, sort of, because museums a lot of museums, smaller museums are in difficulty right now financially, if they are lowering their salary range. I know what I'm worth but I guess it goes back to the be willing to walk away.

Unknown Speaker 40:11
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, it does. I mean, because because that's that's the thing too, like, if because because the the the point like I know, some people are saying like, Oh, I tried to negotiate and then they just dropped me. Right. And that can happen. But my argument to that is well, good. You dodged the bullet. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 40:29
Because you don't want to work there. If they can't

Unknown Speaker 40:33
do that, if they can't like play ball, right. So yeah, I especially if you're not, if you're going for something that's way high, it's way out there. They should at least have the grace of say, that is too much for us. We can't do that. Right. If they really want you they'd come back to you and say, Would you consider this but if they're not if they're sophisticated enough to to know how to negotiate and they're in a hiring position, I would be very wary of working for that organization.

Unknown Speaker 41:08
Thank you. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 41:12
And Marta, you're talking about how it works in the USA museums or companies in general. Martha, I'm gonna say my experiences in US companies. So that that's that's the not that's my knowledge base. So that might very well work very differently in other cultures. So yeah, that's the limit. To my knowledge. Yeah. Any other questions about getting the offer and how you handle that?

Unknown Speaker 41:46
Okay. All right now,

Unknown Speaker 41:50
all my advice that point of Yeah, I'm speaking from this one perspective. All my advice is based on my super privileged Gen X, white male cisgender mental model, right. And I put these these tweets here to put some perspective toward that of this person saying, You know how some people used to think photographs took away part of your soul. I believe this about cover letters. And then somebody says as an HR manager, who worked as a recruiting manager for years I can honestly say that I've never once read through a seagull cover letter like ever, and somebody says an accepted truth and yet we repeat we are repeatedly told them told how important they are gotta hate them. And this other person who says my career advice is devolved to write a specific cover letter and listen to stronger by Kelly Clarkson. Right before the interview. That's all I got. Right? Okay, so I want to know what your thoughts are, right? Do we don't do cover letters. don't negotiate. What you know, what's it like for other cultures? What I'll because you're saying here, here in Spain, it's different but it's great to know how it works in other countries when you're looking for a job abroad. Sure. Yeah, of course. So we're gonna put you all into breakout rooms. And then you're you're all going to discuss that's amazing. Listen to Qatar collection next time, right. Excellent. So we're gonna put you into breakout rooms, and I want you to discuss these thoughts among yourselves and just talk about this, like, Should we do this? Are you talking about other ideas for interviews, right, or other ideas for when the offer happens and what you should do? Let's discuss those things. I'll pop around, maybe tea to you and pop it out. And then we'll come back and we'll discuss for a few more minutes.

Unknown Speaker 43:27
So good. Okay, look for you're in Max. You're muted. Thanks.

Unknown Speaker 46:46
I just figured Yeah, I mean, if you follow me to another room, that's fine. It's not a big deal for me to go in.

Unknown Speaker 46:51
I'm sure. You can go let's say visit. room two. Okay. you're muted.

Unknown Speaker 53:56
Lovely to see all your faces.

Unknown Speaker 53:59
Welcome back.

Unknown Speaker 54:01
Okay, so I hopped into one room just to see what they were talking about. And some of you happened for a little while. But what what what came up what do you all

Unknown Speaker 54:09

Unknown Speaker 54:15
In my group, it was a very interesting conversation, you know, different

Unknown Speaker 54:20
ways of

Unknown Speaker 54:22
looking to job searching because I'm from Spain and other people was working in you and UK and another one in USA. So we have different, you know, points of view on how we the situation when you're looking for a job in each country is completely different.

Unknown Speaker 54:37
Yeah, yeah, for sure. That's, that's, in addition to my like I say, my white male cisgender thing based in one country thing, right? That I can't really speak to how it works in other places necessarily, although I did apply for a job once in, in Canada, and I was trying to figure out how that was going to work because there was a whole thing that it's like, they had to make the case that this that I could do the job that nobody else could do in that organization. If I was going to take the job. I ended up resigning, removing myself from the running for that for other reasons, but that's that's the limited experience I have with applying to international jobs.

Unknown Speaker 55:22
When in case of the state, so MANY people told me that sometimes you choose a yo because of the sanitary you know, I have to say then the insurance they offer you because here for example, in Spain or in general in Europe, we have a public system that everybody has this, you can you have the right to go to the sanitary system and you don't pay if you have an operation or whatever, you don't pay anything because you every every month you have a discount in your salary, everybody in the country, depending on how's your your your your your salary. Yeah it's always bigger or later. And then everybody contributes to the sanitary system and then the state with more money. So you go to the doctor and it's free. You don't pay none. Yeah, to go to the doctor to be operated and and then when you go, for example, you will say this is that's an SEC. So again, it's a private insurance. And I really felt about that because if you have a problem can be you know, so MANY people told me that sometimes you have different jobs to choose. And usually you choose the the one that offers you a better sanitaria insurance or

Unknown Speaker 56:49
do you agree with that?

Unknown Speaker 56:52
Yeah, I mean, certainly I mean, I would say like you know, if that's not going to matter in terms of the job like you know, because there's a public health health system, right, then that's not going to factor into your decision making but then then it has to pretty much be tied to salary and then what are your minimum salary requirements? What what and that's kind of easier because you don't have to worry about those benefits that as much then you can really calculate, okay, what's the minimum what's the point where I walk away in this in this negotiation, and stick to it be willing to be like, Okay, well, if we can't do that then

Unknown Speaker 57:25
but also, you know, it will say, I mean, one thing that I think we don't always take advantage of sometimes in SIG salary negotiations in the states is that fringes is some fringe benefits are sometimes more flexible than we think they are, in the sense that, you know, sometimes, you know, you'll, you'll, you'll get to a point with an organization where, like, they just can't quite meet you on salary. They really want you you really want to work for them that you know that literally they have gone as far as they can possibly go. And then sometimes you can say, well, what if we, you know, negotiate an additional line in the budget where I'll have $5,000 for conference attendance annually. You know, or I've heard I remember, I think it was Douglas Hegley, who's now at the Met said something to the effect of, you know, one of his Jobs was like, he negotiated an increase in the employers contribution to his 401k or five, three B. So they're, they're like options like I mean, like the health insurance is almost always going to be what it is, like, that's usually not negotiable. It's sort of either it's there or it's not that but some of the other stuff is, is can sometimes be, it can get you sort of like over the line if you're like a place as real close but not quite there and you feel like it's a good fit, and it's gonna work. You can make other things happen. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 58:52
yeah. Absolutely. Cool. What else we got talking about?

Unknown Speaker 59:01
I know in the group that I attended, we were talking we were talking about like, well, what if what if, um, what if it wasn't cover letters people were asking for, but I think you could just say like, you know, I don't know, give it give us your best duck. I don't know. Like, whatever. It's gonna be the like, you know, but I just haven't seen any employers necessarily do that. But another is to question about what if they asked for like, you know, get tell us about, tell us how you would run this program or tell us how you would do this. And Sean and I were saying this, like, like Kate was talking about, like, like, you know, give us your marketing plan or whatever, right. This is like how much of your intellectual property Do you provide in that context? And both genres and yet, the more appropriate question from the employer at that point is tell us about experience you have in that area. If they start talking about like, give us a sample of this unless it's something that's originally stated in the call like, say we want a writing sample or something like that. Like, then, like, that's a pretty big red flag. Right? Like, you can just you can you can respond like that. That's something that I would be happy to do. Once hired, you know, that that's something that I'd be willing to do a more high level discussion, then you can have a little discussion about it. But like I as far as how the rubber meets the road, I I'm not going to know how to do this in your organization until I'm there doing it.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:28
So it's funny just to jump off that because because Kate was the one who originally raised the question about, you know, what do you do if you see that and it's funny because just thinking about it again, now, I a few years ago, I actually saw that as a recommendation that the this is how to prove that you're worth something is offer them that you'll volunteer to come in and work for and they said up to two weeks only do this for two weeks, but offer to go in and volunteer it's because somebody is always got some crazy advice like about something or other and yeah, I saw some of the looks but yeah, I just saw that just like volunteer to work up to two weeks for free just to show them what you can do. Like yeah, it's like a, I'm sure they'd have a bridge to sell me real cheap by the end of that.

Unknown Speaker 1:01:22
And that tells you something else about there. A couple minutes. That's something else about about about that organization. I mean, again, take a look at these things as as the sort of like number of red flags that you that are acceptable in this scenario, right. And that's one big red flag, right. Anyway, I want to thank you all for coming. I want to thank our sponsors to MCM for making this session possible and continue the discussion in the MC and 2021 Slack channel. That's where the discussions are for the professional development day. I'll start a thread there. So if you guys have any other ideas, and we'll talk through anything else there. We can do it there. Thanks a lot. Thank you, Sean. Thank you, Kate. Thank you to everybody, for coming on and having this discussion with me. Have a wonderful day.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:06
Thank you, Max. This

Unknown Speaker 1:02:07
is great. Thanks, Max.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:09
Max. Thank you. You