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Looking for a job can be very tasking. It takes a lot of time and energy because it is not something that can be done in a day.

For some, it is as simple as sending in their first application. But for others, the job search takes longer.

In this article, I will give you tips to help you jump start your job search in case it has stalled and how to improve your chances of landing a job.

1. Give Your CV a Makeover

Sometimes not being able to get a job might be because your CV does not really show how qualified you are for the position.

Just having a CV that states your qualifications is not enough; you need to indicate how those qualifications match with what the employer is looking for.

You can even go as far as having your CV reviewed by professions who will help you package your qualifications in an attractive manner.

2. Refresh your interviewing skills

Have you gone for an interview and you think you did well only to never hear from the hiring manager again?

No matter how qualified you are for the position, if your interview skills are lacking you might end up missing out.

Therefore it is important that you improve your interviewing skills in order to boost your chances. If you feel the need to get professional help, then you can even get interview coaching.

3. Build your image online

Having no online presence is just as bad as having a bad online presence. Whether you like it or not, most employers will Google you. What they find will determine whether you are considered for the position or not.

It is important that you ensure you have a good and an active online presence. Get a LinkedIn profile it will help boost your jobs search. If you are a writer, it is important that you have a blog or something similar.

4. Approach Your Search from a Different Angle

We get so many calls from people who have been applying for jobs they feel qualified for but they still don’t get positive results.

The strategy is to change strategies. Instead of applying for jobs in just any industry, pick an industry you are interested in if you have no work experience or if you do have work experience apply for jobs in the industry you have worked in.

For example, if you have been working in the manufacturing industry, it is best to apply for jobs in the same industry as opposed to applying for jobs in the banking industry.

This is because most employers specify that they want candidates who have worked in that particular industry.

5. Networking

How does your network look? Is it full of people working in your industry or not? It is important to remember that networking is an important part of any job search.

As such you should ensure that you have people in your network, who can help you with your job search.

You Might Like Reading Networking 101: Utilizing Internal Networks

6. Don’t get comfortable with the online platform.

The internet has made it easier for one to apply for jobs online without having to walk all over town. This is a good thing however; it is important that you get out in the world and attend events or seminars.

This will not only increase your network but it will also ensure that you are visible to potential employers.

You never know you might just meet someone who might end up connecting you with a job.

7. Review Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter is what the recruiter will see first. What they see will determine whether your CV gets looked at or is thrown out.

This means your cover letter should communicate that you are indeed the best candidate for the position.

Therefore, to prevent your job search from stalling, you should stop sending generic cover letters because they end up hurting your chances of getting a job.

You might want to consider having your Cover letter professionally done to ensure it is well written and can get the employer to look at your CV.

No matter what, it is important to remember that job searching takes time and it is important to stay positive throughout the process. Try some of these tips to revive your job search, you never know your next job might be around the corner.

By Michelle Wanjiku

When I was a recruiter, I was asked a lot of smart questions that made me say, “Wow, this candidate is on top of her game.” But I also heard a lot that made me wonder who the person had taken interview advice from—or if that person had ever sought out help at all.

The truth is that while hiring managers expect you to come with questions, there are plenty of topics you shouldn’t ever bring up. For starters, here are a few that might sound exciting to you, but won’t endear you to the interviewer.

1. “How Often Does the Team Hang Out After Hours?”

It’s only natural to want to work with people you’d have a drink with after work. Because as you know, the reality is that you spend more time with your co-workers than you do with most other people in your life. But asking a recruiter to talk about what goes on after-hours makes it sound like you care a lot about the happy hour scene. And again, you should care about the culture, but phrasing it like this doesn’t do you any favors—even if it’s at a company known for having a good time.

What to Ask Instead

Rather than asking to hear about how hard the team parties, try something like this: “I’d love to hear more about how the team works together here, how would you define the company culture?” This answer will often lead to discussion about fun traditions or weekly happy hours, but it makes you sound far more concerned about finding the right fit than the original phrasing.

2. “Do I Have the Job?”

OK, you might not be as blunt as the wording here, but back in my recruiting days, you’d be amazed at the lengths people would go to get me to say, “You’re amazing!” But here’s the thing: Even when you think you’ve forged a bond with your interviewer, it’s important not to start digging for compliments or reassurances that you’re going to keep moving through the process.

What to Ask Instead

Again, digging for compliments is a good way to turn a recruiter off. Instead, ask this:
“In an ideal world, what should the person in this role do to make his or her manager’s life easier?” By asking this, you’re not getting the answer to your question—sorry!—but instead you’re keeping the focus on what you can do for the company. And at the interview stage, it’s key to make it all about how you’ll be an asset. (The negotiation stage is when you get to start making it about you!)

3. “If This Doesn’t Work Out, Would You Consider Me for Another Opening?”

I’m on the record multiple times for saying the interview process isn’t over when the hiring manager takes a pass. In fact, I’d often bring people back in for new openings because they really were awesome, it’s just that at the time, the role in question wasn’t a good fit for them.

But there’s one thing those people had in common: They never asked me during the first interview to do that. Because those who outright begged me to keep them in mind for other positions made it tougher for me to imagine forcing another person to meet with them, let alone consider them for a full-time position at our company.

What to Ask Instead

There isn’t a great way to ask, “I’m desperate to get my foot in the door any way that I can. Will you put me in the running for another job?” That is unless you want to sound like a crazy person. Instead, at the end of the interview, reinforce your interest in the company one last time.

Say something as simple as, “As a long-time admirer of your organization, I’ve been thrilled to meet with you today.” A brief statement that sums up your passion for the company can leave a positive impression even if the interviewer knows the job isn’t right for you. Throw in a quality thank you note and you make it easy to be considered for other positions.

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How many jobs have you applied for and not heard from the recruiter? Next question….What job search methods are you using? If you been job hunting without success it could be because of you are using one of these outdated job search techniques that are hindering you from getting invited for interviews .

Here is a list of some of the outdated job search techniques

1. Relying on just one job search technique

In this digital era it is very foolish to think you will find a job using one technique. By there are so many places you can find job adverts such as, Facebook , Twitter, Linked in, company websites, job websites, and Recruitment agencies.

This is because just because a company is hiring does not mean they have put it up on their website. Most organisations are using Recruitment Agencies to hire people anyway. Therefore vary your options you may be surprised.

2. Having only one standard CV and Cover Letter

We have heard this so many times but for some reason people still make this mistake

You cannot assume that the cover letter you wrote when applying for a job at company A one year ago, can still be used to apply for a similar position at company B.

This is because every position varies no matter how similar the titles. This is due to different company policies as well as expectations.

A generic Cover Letter or CV will be obvious to spot and the recruitment manager will most likely throw your application out.

Sit down and write a specific cover letter for every job you apply for and tailor your CV to highlight the requirements of the job as well. You could also have these professionally written and save yourself the hustle.

3. Applying for advertised jobs only

Most people assume that because an organisation has not advertised a position then there is no opening available.

Do not limit yourself by believing that the only jobs out there are the ones advertised. Sometimes companies may not know they need someone with your skills and your application may show them that you will be a great addition.

4. Applying for many (or just any) jobs to increase your chances

Why do you need to apply for over 20 positions? Most people believe this will increase their chances of getting an interview. Sadly this is a misconception.

While you are applying for all these jobs, you are probably sending the same CV and cover letter. This as discussed earlier will not add any value. Instead pick a few jobs you truly are interested in and fit your qualifications and spend all your energy and time on them.

Zeroing in on a specific target offers you a better chance as opposed to applying for every job you see. Not to mention this can even lead to demoralization especially if you do not get any interview.

5. Not applying for jobs during the holidays.

We all assume that during the holidays no one is hiring. Which is mostly true, however if you happen to apply for a job when a majority of people are not doing the same, you increase your chances of getting picked.

Think of it this way, if you apply during the holidays, then there is minimal competition and your application will definitely get looked at. But if you wait to apply in January, there will be hundreds of applications and yours could get swallowed by the rest.

Do not take a break just because it’s a holiday. That is the perfect time to apply.

Landing a job might be as simple as you changing your ways. All the best in your job search.

By Michelle Wanjiku

An application letter or cover letter is the most important part of your job search and as such it needs to be done well and in an attractive manner. The application letter is the first thing an employer looks at and if you do not convey why you deserve the job properly then they won’t even look at your CV.

Here are a few things to help you when writing an Application Letter

1. Tailor it to your industry

Whenever you write a cover letter it is important to remember to tailor it to the industry you want to work in. For example if the job is a Human Resource position then there is no point in you mentioning your sales experience.

This is because the cover letter is supposed to show how you are qualified for the position which means you only need to put experience relevant to the position you are applying for. The rest can appear on your CV

2. Address the Hiring Manager

Your application letter should be addressed to the hiring manager. If you can find out his/her name and use that in the salutation. This goes a long way in showing that you were truly interested in the position and took time to do some research especially if the name was not indicated in the job advert.

3. Keep it short

It is important to keep in mind that the recruiter has to go through a lot of applications therefore if you want yours read it should be brief and clear. There is no point in writing two pages or even more than six paragraphs. The shorter and clear it is the better.

4. Be passionate

When writing an application letter it is important that you show that you truly are interested in the position and working for the company. This will help impress the recruiter and better your chances of getting an interview.

No one wants to hire someone with no real interest in what they do.

Below is a sample cover letter for graduate trainee accountant jobs.

Graduate Job Seeker,
P.O. Box 10678- 0100
5th January, 2016.

The Human Resource Manager,
ABC Company,
Box 34567– 00100,

Dear Sir/ Madam


I am writing to express my interest in the position of accountant graduate trainee as advertised in STU newspaper. I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce – Accounting and Finance from Kenyatta University and have a CPA 4 qualification.

I am particularly attracted to your firm because your graduate training programme will help me gain hands on experience in the banking industry. During my time as a student I have had part-time jobs and an internship, all of which have given me a chance to work as part of a team and meet deadlines.
Working at FGH company gave me a chance to inspire and motivate others while at the same time invest in my integrity and accountability skills.

In addition to my formal education, I grasp fresh concepts quickly and can easily adapt to new changes. My first-rate communication skills will assist me in building a professional network of clients and colleagues.

I have also learnt to give positive feedback, and to use it to set my own personal goals for self-improvement I welcome the challenge of working with you in a bid to build on my professional skills while upholding your dedication to exceptional customer service delivery.

I would appreciate an opportunity to discuss my interest further with you. You can reach me at 07XX 123456 if you need further information and clarification.

Graduate Job Seeker

We are over with the festive and its time to focus on what is important to us this year. Well, if you did not get that job last year do not give up yet, get back to the drawing board and evaluate on where you could have gone wrong and correct as early as now. Here are 5 tips that will help you in getting a job in 2017

1. Have a good CV

A CV is a very important document when it comes to job applications; it’s the document that gets you interviews. It should contain your name and contact details at the top and then list all your work experiences with dates starting with your most recent at the top to the last one position.
It should also include your qualifications and lastly, the CV should have your work achievements and professional affiliation where applicable as this distinguishes you from ordinary job seekers giving you a head start.

2. Apply for the right jobs and at the right time

Just because you did not get a job last year does not mean that you now apply for any job that comes you way. Study the job first, make sure that you match the qualifications the employer is looking for, beyond that make sure that you make the application at the right time which means within the first three days of the advertisement.
Again, it makes no sense in making an application for a perfect job but you do it late when the position is already closed.

3. Reach out to your networks

More than half of the jobs are found through networking and referrals; this means that being in touch with your networks is an important part of finding the right job.

4. You need to prepare for your interview

Well, getting invited for an interview does not mean you got the job, it only means you are a little closer to getting the job and what stand between you and the job is an interview.
It’s very important to prepare for the interview as it increases your chances of getting the job. Carry out a background research on the company, research more on the role, also go a step further and find out what different companies are offering for the position so that you are able to negotiate for the salary.
The importance of interview preparation is that it reduces nervousness during the interview as when you are well prepared you feel more confident.

5. Stop waiting for a dream job

Most graduates wasted the whole of 2016 waiting for the perfect jobs; those big titles in prestigious companies. Truth is, there is nothing that comes easy and you have to start below in order to get to the top of the ladder. So if you get offers for attachment/internships this year, accept the offers as this is where you get experience need to go to the next level.

A CV is supposed to be a true representation of your work experience. It should be able to tell the employer about your professional history and your skills. Simply put, a CV is supposed to be a marketing tool used to sell you to prospective employers

Here are tips on how to write a CV for 2017

There are particular sections that employers expect to see on your CV regardless of industry and below I will tackle each section and what you are expected to include.

1. Contact Details

Every CV should have your contact information; it’s the very first section on a CV. The details should include your name, physical address, email address and phone number. Make sure that the email address is professional, emails such as [email protected] show how immature you are and the employer might not want to look at your CV beyond that point.

2. Professional Profile

This is the second part on the CV; it’s also one of the most important aspects of your CV. It simply highlights your experience, your skills and expertise. The profile should be tailored to match the job you are applying for, highlighting specific qualities that match the role. Aim to keep your profile short and precise and not more than a four sentences.

3. Education

Here, you are supposed to outline your education profile starting with the most recent to the last one. Include the certification, the name of the institutions and the dates you were there. In this section you can use bullet points.

An example:

  • Diploma in Human Resource, IHRM, 2014-2015
  • Degree in Business Administration, Kenya Methodist University, 2010-2013

4. Experience and employment history

This is the most important section on a CV. In this section you outline your previous jobs and work experience. Your experience should be listed from the most recent to the last one. You should state your job titles and the dates you worked, followed by the company you worked for and then outline your duties and responsibilities. Choose duties that are most relevant to the job you are applying for, especially if it’s a long list. Use bullet points to outline your duties and responsibilities.

An example

Human Resource Assistant;
ABC Company, 2012-To Date;
Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Prepare reports and recommend procedures to reduce absenteeism, employee turnover and low morale among the workforce
  • Provide advice and support to supervisors and staff selection committee
  • Actively take part in the staffing function right from recruitment, selection and placement to termination
  • Participate in training and development of all staff, new and current as well as outgoing
  • Advising employees on employment law and the employer’s own employment policies and procedures

5. Key Achievements

If you have done anything you are particularly proud of, like implementing a system in your department you should include it on the CV, also remember to include the changes that have come about due to your achievement. This is very important as it helps you differentiate yourself from other candidates  . This should come just below the work experience.

An example

Human Resource Assistant;
ABC Company, 2012-To Date;
Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Prepare reports and recommend procedures to reduce absenteeism, employee turnover and low morale among the workforce
  • Provide advice and support to supervisors and staff selection committee
  • Actively take part in the staffing function right from recruitment, selection and placement to termination
  • Participate in training and development of all staff, new and current as well as outgoing
  • Advising employees on employment law and the employer’s own employment policies and procedures

Key Achievement(s):

  • Developed a management of attendance policy which has reduced absenteeism levels in the workplace by 2%
  • Facilitated the rebuilding of the organization’s HR function which resulted in significant cost-savings

6. Membership/professional Affiliation

This is where you give details of professional bodies that you are affiliated with if any. An example you are a registered member for IHRM, you should include it here.

7. Hobbies and interests

When you tell your employers what you do on your own time, it says a lot about your natural motivations. These are activities that nobody tells you to do but there should be some connections to the type of jobs you do. Note that, hobbies that are not descriptive of your abilities e.g. eating out or going out to watch movies are unlikely to add value to your CV.

8. Lastly on how to write a CV, the references

Your referees should include your previous employers either in managerial or supervisory level. The section should include the person’s name, their job title, the company they work for, their contact number and email address.

By Lilian Wamaitha

Change is inevitable. And the same case applies when it comes to writing compelling curriculum vitae. Have you had the feeling that you will get that shot listing only to be rejected by hiring managers? Well, as the corporate world changes so do the ways of writing a CV. You can’t keep using the same old CV year in year out. There is a need to change and keep up with the curriculum vitae trends as they come.

That said, in order to avoid your CV ending up in a trash bin somewhere, there are certain trends as a job seeker you must be aware of and implement to increase your chances of getting jobs.

Curriculum Vitae Trends Job Seeker Must Pay Attention To

1. Old is no longer gold

Any professional CV writer will tell you that, the ages of putting together your names, age, telephone number email address followed by a chronological order of education, work experience, conferences and seminars attended followed by a list of referee is long gone. That was a CV for another age, not for today’s job market.

A resume is supposed to sell you to a potential employer. The chances of getting shortlisted with such a CV are very slim in today’s job maker where everybody is competing for the same limited vacancies.

2. Renewing the identity

CV writing has changed over the past years. It is no longer just a document you present to a recruiter. Instead it is the number one marketing tool. The Kenyan job market today requires one to stand out from the completion. And this said, the focus now is on your work history mostly so that a hiring manger can be able to determine if you are the best fit for a certain position.

3. What comes first matters a lot

While the traditional name and address still remains at the top of a CV, what follows next is what matters. It is no longer a question of education followed by work experience. What follows instead is a profile summary of who you are. It’s like summarizing your entire CV in one paragraph.

With a profile summary, you explain your experience and what makes you the best candidate for the position. With this the recruiter is already sold and will want to go through your entire CV.

An example of a profile summary is

“I am a Biomechanical and Processing Engineering graduate with attachment experience under machines maintenance. I am well versed in the principles and practices involved in engineering tasks including; project management, maintenance and servicing, food processing, hydraulic and pneumatic systems and computer aided drawing and design. With my training in Biomechanical and processing engineering and my attachment experience, I am looking for entry level positions as a Maintenance Supervisor/Engineer or a Processing Engineer, a post that will expose me to the industry where I can gain more skills and experience needed.”

4. Elaborating your work experience

The current curriculum vitae trends demand that a job seeker elaborates on their work experience. Instead of just writing worked as a clerk between this period and that, go ahead to explain the duties and roles you were tasked with as a clerk. This is what the employer is looking for. With a detailed work experience he/she will be able to determine whether you fit the role as described in the job description.

Curriculum vitae trends If your are a 21st century job seeker, you must keep up with the said curriculum vitae trends to increase your chances of getting a job. This is what will set you up from other job seekers.

My first resume was just a half-page long and the only feedback I received was that I should’ve included more work experience. When I got home, I immediately did a Google search because I (admittedly) didn’t know what I was doing.

I went the other way for my next attempt and wrote my life story. It didn’t get me a single reply. I hated that feeling and decided to experiment until I found a resume that would give me results.

So, I started designing different templates. I tried various fonts, added images, and played with all sorts of colors and effects, until I created something I felt really proud of. As an arts major with design experience, I wanted to show off my particular skill set.

I sent out the revamped version, and the very same day I got a call for an interview. Fast-forward one month and I was working at a Ritz-Carlton resort. The first thing my manager said was “We don’t often get resumes like this in the hospitality industry, so I was eager to meet you.”

I’ve used this template with every application since. While I’m still relatively early in my career and I’ve shifted from hospitality to content editing, my resume has helped me get my foot in the door each time. I know that because I always get positive comments about it during interviews.

While I can’t guarantee that you’ll have the same results as me—this formatting might not be appropriate for every industry and role—I can share what I learned when I transformed mine from monotonous to eye-catching.

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By Selipha Kihagi

When preparing for an upcoming interview for a job, it is only natural that you will go to browse various job interview tips. You will also go the extent of asking the people around you for tips that would help you ace the interview. From sending emails, using social media you will ask for job interview tips in your area of study and yes you will find a pool of ideas and advice.

But is the advice you are getting enough to take you through your first interview or a pack of hostile interviewers? Below are some tips you will find useful in any job interview, regardless the position or company.

Job Interview Tips You Need To Know

1. The first 5 minutes and the last 5 are the most crucial
You may have already been told about how important it is that you impress recruiters or employers during a job interview. Seeking to impress is a broad factor that could become your worst nightmare if stressed too much. Recruiters and employers already know if they are going to hire you or keep you as a maybe in only the first 5 minutes.

What you say, how you behave, your appearance and general attitude will be judged here. The same applies for the last 5 minutes. You need to leave a lasting impression so the recruiter does not forget you once the next candidate comes in. Focus on impressing at these two times, then let your preparation work for you in between.

2. Employers hate direct one sentence answers
This does not mean you have the green light to talk and blab your way through the interview; there is also too much talking. The trick here is to give answers as if you are telling your life story. Employers and recruiters can already see how experienced you are, they want to hear about those real accomplishments you made in your last job or projects you participated in while in school.

Make sure the interviewer is moved by what you say. It’s the easiest way to be remembered by employers. This way even if you don’t get hired, they will reach out to you when they hear of another job.

3. If you believe you are the best, you will ace that interview
This goes beyond having confidence. It is knowing that the company or employer will benefit a lot from hiring you that will count. Think about it, it is always easier to convince someone to try out a certain joint or pizza place, why? Because you believe they are the best in the business.

The same notion applies when going for job interviews, think of yourself as a pizza joint (or whatever your best food is) that you truly believe in then sell yourself to the recruiter. If you do this, employers will have no choice but to consider you.

4. Your qualifications will not matter when you are not a people person
Every single job demands that you have interpersonal skills or good communication skills. So, from how you handle the lady or gentleman sitting at the front desk, or the guards at the gate or building you are going to interview, you must be in your best behavior.

Do not become the person who is rude to someone in the lift only to find that they are the ones interviewing you.

You have just gone through the stress of a first interview and luckily you have aced it. The hiring manger now wants to bring you in for a second one. Congratulations on that step!

“Just because you got through to the second interview doesn’t really guarantee you the job” says Muthoni Ndegwa, a Client Services Manager at Corporate Staffing Services Limited, a leading recruitment firm that offers career advisory services that includes interview coaching and CV writing. A second interview is no different from the first. You need to handle it, just as you did the first one to guarantee you placement in the company.

So What are the Mistakes People Make in Second Interviews?

1. Refusing to prepare

Naturally, most people assume that you don’t need to research the company since you have already made it to this stage. Probably many have not. After all, what else is left to do? All you have to do is continue being a delight, which isn’t a bad thing. However, don’t make the mistake of just going for an interview without having prepared adequately. Most of the time, you find that in a second interview, you are likely to meet new interviewers, hence the more better reason you should prepare well.

Instead, prior to the interview conduct a background check on the company on their website and social media pages. You never know what you may have missed that may just come up during the interview. The new knowledge will make the interview process flow smoothly as it makes conversing easier.

2. You Think it’s Time to Make Bold Requests

Just because they gave you a chance to come for a second interview doesn’t mean, you get too comfortable and start making unrealistic demands. These include crazy ideas like wanting to have a one on one meeting with a company executive or being given a sneak peak view into company information that is only reserved for employees.

Some even go to the extent of arriving three hours before the interview, since they want to ‘hang around’ with the employees to learn the company culture. Keep calm! You have not been hired. Just because they called you in for the second interview doesn’t mean, they think you are the best candidate. Be humble. However, don’t strain much. If you need anything, like to use the restroom just ask. Just avoid asking for things you know very well you don’t need.

3. Getting Too Casual in Your Conversations

At this point of the interview process, it’s natural to feel like you know some of the interviewers you interacted with the first time on a personal level. It’s therefore easy to let down your guard and start sharing information that is too personal. The truth is that no matter how relaxed you feel; keep the conversation as professional as possible.

What you need to keep in mind is that, this is still an interview like any other. It’s not a casual meeting you would have with friends to discuss what’s trending on social media. However if you have something personal that you think is relevant to the interview, there is no harm in sharing.

Making it to the second interview stage, should be a great accomplishment that you should be proud of. However, while at it, don’t walk into the room like the jobs is already yours. This is still an interview, to determine if you are the best fit but that doesn’t mean being too uptight. Instead carry yourself in a professional way that might just be the reason you are given that offer letter at the end.

“So, tell me about yourself.”

What seems like such a simple question can really make you sweat, especially in an interview. What, exactly, should you share—not just to build rapport, but to show that you’re the perfect fit for the job?

Fear not, job seekers: There’s a super-simple formula that will help you answer this question with ease.

How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

So, the first question you’re probably going to get in an interview is, “Tell me about yourself.” Now, this is not an invitation to recite your entire life story or even to go bullet by bullet through your resume. Instead, it’s probably your first and best chance to pitch the hiring manager on why you’re the right one for the job.

A formula I really like to use is called the Present-Past-Future formula. So, first you start with the present—where you are right now. Then, segue into the past—a little bit about the experiences you’ve had and the skills you gained at the previous position. Finally, finish with the future—why you are really excited for this particular opportunity.

Let me give you an example:

If someone asked, “tell me about yourself,” you could say:

“Well, I’m currently an account executive at Smith, where I handle our top performing client. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was on three different major national healthcare brands. And while I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific healthcare company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with Metro Health Center.”

Remember throughout your answer to focus on the experiences and skills that are going to be most relevant for the hiring manager when they’re thinking about this particular position and this company. And ultimately, don’t be afraid to relax a little bit, tell stories and anecdotes—the hiring manager already has your resume, so they also want to know a little more about you.

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When I first moved to New York, I was a cover letter machine. I wrote to every sir or madam with a job opening. I expressed my interest in positions for which I had none. I waxed rhapsodic about companies I’d never heard of. My response rate? A whopping zero percent.

Around the 10th unanswered application, the negative chatter started to kick in—and it sounded suspiciously like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

Go home, Lisa, said the small, icy voice in my head. You’re just not cut out for this. Also, you have no sense of style. At my lowest point, while surfing job boards at Starbucks, I actually locked myself in the bathroom and cried.

Here’s the good thing about rock bottom: Nothing is off-limits. I gave myself permission to try any and all tactics in the cover letter playbook, from throwing in a Beyoncé GIF to pretending the hiring manager and I were good friends. Finally, 103 cover letters later, I landed on one that worked.

Within an hour, I had an interview request waiting in my inbox—and then another, and another. Soon, my response rate skyrocketed from 0 to 55%, and I was scheduling interviews with Vogue, InStyle, and Rolling Stone into my calendar. In other words, this letter—fueled by an old copywriting framework called problem-agitate-solve—is powerful stuff.

Here’s how this three-part formula (a.k.a., my secret sauce) works:

1. Identify the Problem

55% of hiring managers don’t read cover letters. Why should they, when we write like modern-day Oliver Twists, begging them to please, sir, give us the job?

News flash: The hiring manager isn’t here to make your dreams come true. They’re in it for themselves. OK, that’s harsh, but the truth is that they’re looking for an awesome candidate to come in and do a kick-ass job that’ll help them run their department (or company) more efficiently and successfully. That’s why, when a friend tipped me off to an opening at the fashion magazine I’d read religiously since middle school, I resisted the urge to gush—and opened with this one-liner instead:

“As a veteran of and Vs. Magazine, I’ve seen how crazy fashion month can get.”

This sentence, though just 16 words long, tells the hiring manager two things: I understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and I’ve been there. The trick? Zeroing in on the right problem—because it’s almost never spelled out for you in the job description.

When you’re writing your own cover letter, start with the list of responsibilities and ask yourself, Why? Why is this task important to this company? Keep digging until you can’t go any further. The true need is usually the one at the end of a chain of whys.

2. Agitate the Problem

Now that you’ve identified the problem, here comes the fun part.

Because no hiring manager has ever said, “I just love paying employees thousands of dollars every year!” your challenge now is to remind him or her how painful the problem is, and by default, how valuable a solution could be. Don’t be afraid to twist the knife a bit, like I did in my second paragraph:

If you’re looking for someone who can not only keep up, but also deliver that SEO-friendly, 75-page street style slideshow five minutes ago…

Notice I didn’t say, “If you’re looking for someone who can turn around projects quickly…” I was specific, and I made sure to use an example I knew would resonate with a stressed-out web editor.

And if you’re new to the industry or the role? Just ask. This is exactly what informational interviews are for. Find someone on the team you’re applying to, let your interviewer do most of the talking, and pay close attention to how he or she discusses the company’s challenges.

In conversation, we instinctively trust people who mirror our body language. On your application, you won’t get the chance—but you can do the next best thing: Pick up on your interviewer’s subtle cues and phrases and then mirror their speaking language in your cover letter.

3. Offer the Solution

By this point, you’ve got the hiring manager squirming at the table. Now, deliver the solution. Hint: It’s you.

Think about what makes you incredibly qualified to solve the problem. In my case, I knew I wanted the hiring manager to think of me and say, “Lisa? Oh, she’s the one who knows our backend systems and seems like a real go-getter.”

Here’s how I made it happen:

“Since TeamSite and I are old friends, I’ll be able to hit the ground running—and whether it’s churning out a dozen blog posts per day or refreshing the homepage with breaking fashion month news, I’ve done it all. Most importantly, you’ll never hear me say, “That’s not my job!”

4. Close With Confidence

After all that work, you aren’t going to dash off a breathless “Hope to hear from you soon!” right? Instead, seal the deal with a sentence that displays confidence, competence, and a genuine interest in the company:

“I’d love to learn more about your production needs and how I can help!”

Boom. That’s it.

Like its contrarian sibling, the pain letter, this cover letter takes some guts to send. I get it—the first time I fired it off, I was so terrified my boyfriend had to hit the enter button for me.

Look at it this way, though: Everyone else will compete on how many buzzwords they can stuff in a sentence. They’ll swear up and down how passionate they are and how hard they work. But you? With this cover letter formula, you’ve already proved it.

You, my friend, play a different game.

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