Cover letters for career changers are different than those for job seekers with linear career paths. Career change cover letters need to focus more on the candidate's transferable skills than their past experience. In order to hook a hiring manager and convince him/her that you are well-suited for the position, you need to prove that you possess a skill set that will allow you to add value to their organization quickly. AOL turned to Barb Poole, owner of Hire Imaging, to learn about one woman's career change strategy and the cover letter she used to market her qualifications.
Q. Tell us about your client's career change plan.
A. My client June was making a career change from production/factory supervisor and worker to phlebotomist. She was concerned about age discrimination as a 55-year-old career changer in a recession economy. Although she had recently graduated from a relevant program -- a plus -- she was concerned that younger graduates would be very tough competition.
Q. What strategies were used to make June memorable?
A. We obtained the name of the hiring manager at the medical clinic June was targeting. This hiring manager had hired June's friend, who had performed very well in her first year on the job. The hiring manager was aware of this. So it was key to mention this connection in the first line of the first paragraph. Bullets were used to highlight value offered.
The first bullet showcased the required credentials and top performance in school. The other two bullets spoke to past performance and lifelong ethics and philosophy to highlight dedication. Words like "enthusiasm" and "excited" were peppered in the letter to convey this baby boomer's zest, energy, and commitment. Finally, we used a centered quote at the top of the letter from a credible source -- the college's phlebotomy instructor, who was also an American Red Cross leader in the community.
Q. How did you position June's previous unrelated work experience?
A. Because June's former employment was not specifically related in terms of job labels or industries/companies to her current target, company names and positions were not cited. Instead, we focused in the last two bullets on her broad experience encompassing promotions and contributions; and to her guiding cornerstone around what she expects to offer employers. We also included a reference testimonials supplement. Going beyond a typical reference list, it contained glowing testimonials from former supervisors, colleagues, vendors, and customers.
Q. What were the results of June's job search campaign?
A. June was hired for a full-time, union position with great benefits. She is working in the lab where she applied and she is delighted to be working in a cancer center unit providing blood work services to cancer patients.
The winning letter
• 4520 Grand Avenue South • Minneapolis, MN 55409 • 612.555.4983 • JuneMarony@gmail.com
"June was a great student ... picked up on skills quickly ... pleasant ... at the top of the class ...
she would be an asset to anyone's team."
~ Nancy Jurring, American Red Cross Metro Team Supervisor; Instructor,
Minneapolis Community and Technical College Phlebotomy Program
October 1, 2010
Human Resources Director
Parkview Medical Center
109 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Dear Ms. McCullum:
I was thrilled to learn through Brenda Gregg, a Phlebotomist with Parkview, of your current opening for a Phlebotomist, and am confident I can add immediate value as a member of your team. My qualifications are a good fit with the position:
- Certification in Phlebotomy and Basic Life Support from the Minneapolis Community and Technical College's Phlebotomy Program (September 2010). I excelled in my coursework (98%) and clinical work (Ranked 2nd in Class of 126) at Hennepin County Medical Center. There, I loved working with patients of all ages. I am comfortable with all requirements of the job, from basic lab drawings through the entire process, work flow and other medical assistance tasks.
- Work experience in varied settings, providing tasks from office administration to team leadership and customer service. I received promotions, assumed tasks as needed, and demonstrated my ability to both contribute and motivate to organizational goals and mission.
- A grounded work ethic and dedicated approach to all tasks and undertakings. I follow a guide which has served as the cornerstone of my work -- and life!
- I succeed only if my employing organization succeeds (and my success helps theirs);
- An employing organization and those it serves deserve my dedication and hard work;
- My employer should expect me to be part of the solutions... never part of any problems.
I am so excited to begin my new career, and am confident in my abilities to positively impact the patients I service and all with whom I work! I would appreciate the opportunity to meet and further share with you my qualifications and enthusiasm for joining your staff. I invite you to review my accompanying résumé and reference testimonials, and thank you for your consideration. I look forward to the next step!