Now that the economy and the markets have regained some stability, the job market for younger advisors is heating up again. That’s a good thing, considering that there seem to be a lot more folks looking for jobs than there have been in recent years. That’s good news if you’re one of those looking for a job, but it also means that competition is heating up as well.
In my experience, young advisors and others with little job hunting experience don’t understand that hiring is largely a screening-out process. That is, businesses that are looking to hire start with a pile of resumes, and begin by looking for reasons to rule out candidates. When they get down to a manageable number, they’ll start doing pre-screening interviews, with an eye to ruling out some more.
For job seekers, that means if there’s anything on your resume that will make it easy for the screeners to reject you, you’ll have one chance to explain why they shouldn’t: your resume cover letter. So you’d better make that letter your best shot.
In your cover letter, you’ll want to highlight your experience and qualifications, but in my experience, there are also three danger areas where saying the wrong thing most assuredly gets you a one-way ticket to rejectionville. The three most common mistakes on a cover letter? They are failing to include reasonable explanations for and clear enunciations of:
the compensation you’re looking for
the time since your last job
Let’s take compensation first. Employers usually don’t list the compensation for a job because they’re looking for “the right person.” With that said, they do have a comp range in mind. What’s more, they don’t want to hire anyone who will be unhappy with the job. So it’s important for job candidates to be honest about what salary they are looking for, but they need to be realistic as well. These days, salary tables are readily available on the Internet, so there’s no excuse for not knowing what the salary range is for the job you’re applying for. If you state that you’re looking for comp that’s outside that range, you’re running a very strong risk of getting screened out.
Another problem is preventing an employer from discriminating against you because you have been out of work. Not working doesn’t mean that time off is bad. I just suggest that you give a good explanation. What you’re trying to avoid is the appearance that no one wants to hire you, so the key is to have a reasonable explanation for more than six months since your last job, written in the cover letter. It could be that after your last “bad” experience, you’re taking your time to find the “right” job. Or, you might have taken time off to help with an ailing relative, or maybe you went back to school. One of the best explanations I’ve heard came from a woman who tried working with her husband, but called it quits after a year. But whatever the reason, be sure it’s in your cover letter, to get in your prospective employer’s mind before the question even comes up.
Finally, there’s your “objective.” I don’t even know why this is on resumes today, except someone put it on a template somewhere. One of the fastest ways to get screened out of job is to list an “objective” that has nothing to do with the job you’re applying for. As I said, employers want their employees to be happy, and that’s a sure sign you won’t be. Remember: “objective” doesn’t mean your career objective. That can wait until your face-to-face interview. It should mean your current objective, which is to get this job. So make your “objective” something that ties very closely to the job you’re applying for, or just get rid of it all together. At least that way, you won’t get screened out in the first round.