Be the Boss Over Cancer

Even more challenging than putting together an impressive resume can be the task of writing a great cover letter – one that is concise, creative and compelling. We recently came across a post on Idealist that links to a Harvard Business Review piece providing tips on how to do just that – how to make your cover letter stand out. Personally, I think it’s always helpful to read such articles, even if you've heard some of the advice before. At different stages of your career, certain tips may resonate more with you, or you may find it easier to implement the suggestions being offered by the author or the expert he/she has consulted.

One key point that nearly all career coaches emphasize is the importance of having your letter not be simply a regurgitation of what's on your resume – a list of former job titles and responsibilities. Instead, you need to highlight specific, quantifiable accomplishments that are directly relevant to the position you're applying for.

My favorite example featured in the Idealist post is of a candidate for a nonprofit job, whose cover letter included links to videos of her prior advocacy work. In this era of increasing multimedia, it’s no surprise that a letter containing not only words, but tangible, visual examples of an applicant’s capabilities and previous work, is what makes the difference between landing an interview and being lost in the crowd.

Another challenge that many of our readers face when crafting a cover letter is determining whether or not to address their cancer diagnosis. There really is no right or wrong answer to that question; rather, it’s a very personal decision that each applicant needs to make for him/herself. You are not required to disclose this information; however, if you decide it’s a subject you'd prefer to broach, you may want to consider waiting until you’re further along in the hiring process.

One reason why it makes sense to wait is that hiring managers and recruiters often spend very little time reviewing cover letters; they scan them quickly to assess whether applicants can write well and communicate effectively. If you disclose health information in a cover letter, you don’t have the opportunity to discuss it and field any questions or concerns the employer may have – and that may be limiting.

For more information on job searching after cancer, check out our Looking for Work section, which includes additional tips on mastering your cover letter. Or click here to order a free copy of our new Job Search Toolkit.


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