Why You Need a Unique Application for Every Job, with Monica Haut

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 265: Why You Need a Unique Application for Every Job, with Monica Haut

Airdate: October 14, 2020

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 people land more interviews and get hired faster.

Get a free review of your resume today.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

You’ve created a great resume and cover letter.  Do you really need to customize both documents every time you apply for a job?

Today’s guest says, absolutely, yes.

Monica Haut is here to talk about why you need a custom application for every job.

She’s the human resources manager at Hopworks Urban Brewery. It’s a family-owned and operated company that employs more than 100 people across the Pacific Northwest.

Monica joins us today from Portland, Oregon.

Monica, here’s where I’d like to start, why doesn’t it make sense to use the same cover letter and resume every time you apply for a job?

Monica Haut:

Well, most of the time, if you’re using just a generic cover letter and resume, the person, like myself, who receives it, there’s nothing in it that makes you stand out from the rest. I’m just going to skim over it and set it aside.

Mac Prichard:

What do you think, Monica, when you do see that resume and cover letter that’s clearly generic?

Monica Haut:

Well, to me it’s really difficult to get a good sense of who the applicant is. And I’m looking for someone who not only has the skills that we need but someone who is going to best fit our culture. And if it’s generic, and just full of nonspecific information, then it’s just not going to capture much attention.

Mac Prichard:

Can you always tell, Monica, when someone is using a generic cover letter and resume?

Monica Haut:

Yes. Usually the first clue is, at the top of a resume, someone will include an objective that just says, “I’d like to find a reputable company where I can best use my talents to make a positive contribution.” That’s great. I think so many of us think that way, but it’s not really telling me who you are, what you bring, what you want, or what’s in it for me as the employer. So, more specific information is going to get you farther in the hiring process.

Mac Prichard:

What kind of specific information do you like to see when you’re reviewing all of those resumes, when you see one that stands out? What does that candidate do, Monica?

Monica Haut:

Well, they are telling me what they want and why they want it, specifically. If someone’s looking for a job in marketing, that’s what they should put on their resume or in their cover letter, “I am looking for a position in marketing where I can use my skills in…” Whatever those skills are. Or, “Where I can learn more skills in…” Whatever they want to learn. It’s very specific information that hopefully fits what I’m looking for. So, that kind of goes in line with what we’re talking about which is the reason why you want to be specific in your cover letter and your resume is so that the employer can see why you could potentially be a good fit right away.

Mac Prichard:

Now, I want to talk more about that but I also want to talk about why people do this. Because there is a strategy beyond it when someone sends out a generic cover letter and resume. It’s with the hope that by getting out as many applications as possible that will eventually produce a certain number of interviews and eventually one or more offers.

Monica Haut:

Well, not necessarily, because if you’re just throwing a bunch of resumes out there to see what sticks, you may not find the job that you really want or that is really the best fit for you. So, I always recommend that you focus on what you want. Be honest with yourself, set your standards. What do you want that you feel is the best fit for your skills and your talents and what you want to learn?

Mac Prichard:

What about people who, particularly now that we have double-digit unemployment, need a job right away? What would you say to somebody who’s hoping that by sending out a large number of applications, that that is indeed going to solve their problem and help them find a position faster?

Monica Haut:

Well, that’s understandable, completely. If you need a job, you need a job, and if you’re not particular about what that job is, at the moment, then by all means, do everything you can. Send out a ton of resumes, fill out a ton of applications, but once you get that job, if you’re still looking for that dream job, that’s when you could take the time to tailor your cover letter, tailor your resume to the job that you want, to the employer that you want.

Mac Prichard:

When you’re tailoring any piece of communication, there’s an audience that you’re talking to, who’s the audience for that resume and cover letter, and what should a listener think about when they’re creating that content?

Monica Haut:

Usually, the gatekeepers are the HR people, the recruiters and the HR generalists like myself. So, we’re the first line, we see the cover, we see the resume, and we see so many of them that what we’re looking for is which cover letter, which resume, tells us that this person really wants this particular job, why they want it, what do they bring, and do they look like, at least on paper, do they look like they’d be a good cultural fit?

Mac Prichard:

And those who do that persuasively, what are they doing or saying in their resume and in their cover letter?

Monica Haut:

I always recommend that you use the same terminology that is used in the job posting. That you go to the employer’s website and learn as much as you can about them, and highlight things about you that match up with that employer.

Mac Prichard:

Why is that effective?

Monica Haut:

Well, for one, it will immediately show that you are a viable candidate. You know, there’s just so many layers to this process. There’s your cover letter, there’s your resume, you get to know someone on paper, then there’s the phone interview, then there’s the in-person interview, and so, if you can be yourself through all of that, and you’re targeting an employer or a type of job that you really want through all of that, you’re more likely to get something that best fits you, that’s most satisfying for you, that’s not just a job.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned earlier that when you and your colleagues are reviewing resumes and cover letters, you’re thinking about what’s in it for the employer. What’s your best advice, Monica, about how to figure that out if you’re an applicant? How to understand an employer’s needs?

Monica Haut:

Understand them? Well, read the job posting, read it thoroughly, and then highlight in your cover letter and your resume what you have in skills and experience that best matches what that employer’s looking for.

Mac Prichard:

We’re going to take a break but before we do, I’m just curious, Monica, again, you see resumes everyday, what percentage of applications do you think are actually unique? How many people take the time to do this?

Monica Haut:

Not enough. Percentage wise, it’s less than half.

Mac Prichard:

There’s an opportunity here, if you want to stand out, to do that because as many as half or more of your competitors aren’t doing this, it sounds like.

Well, we’re going to take a break and when we come back, Monica Haut will continue to share her advice about why you need a unique application for every job.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Monica Haut.

She’s the human resources manager at Hopworks Urban Brewery. It’s a family-owned and operated company that employs more than 100 people across the Pacific Northwest.

Now, Monica, before the break, we were talking about why you need a unique application for every job and I was really struck in the close of the first segment, how many people don’t do this. So, again, it’s a great advantage if you’re looking for a way to stand out.

Now, let’s talk about the how here. How do you recommend creating a unique application? I think you’ve touched on some of these points, but what are the main changes you recommend people make when customizing a resume and cover letter?

Monica Haut:

Well, starting with the cover letter, I suggest making it conversational. I’ve advised so many people on this, and what I say is, imagine that the employer is sitting across the table from you right now, and you are introducing yourself in just a couple of paragraphs, and you want to be yourself during this, so, what does that look like on paper? So, I always suggest that you write it out exactly the way that you would say it. Then you can go in and refine it a little bit more, but if you make a cover letter that’s too, well, number one, generic, or if it’s too formal, and something too formal isn’t necessarily the best fit for that employer or that job, it’s not going to capture the attention that you want it to.

Mac Prichard:

Write like you talk; is that the advice?

Monica Haut:

Yes.

Mac Prichard:

When you get a letter like that, what is it that makes that conversational tone so attractive to you as a hiring manager?

Monica Haut:

Well, it gives me a little insight into their personality. And so, like I said earlier, we’re not only looking for skills and experience but we’re looking for a culture fit. And I don’t think that Hopworks is any different than any other type of business, where you’ve got teams that need to work together for a common goal. And so, it’s very important for the employer to find people that not only bring in those specific skills they need but that are a good fit for the overall team.

Mac Prichard:

So, you’re ready to write it in a conversational tone but before you start writing, what kind of research do you recommend a listener do in creating a cover letter?

Monica Haut:

Not only read the job description thoroughly but go to the employer’s website. Google the employer, read any kind of news that’s out there about them, and, gosh, if you happen to know anybody who’s familiar with that employer, speak with them. Gather as much information as you can, so, number one, you can make it look like it’s a good fit for you, and if you find out that it is, then you can highlight things about you that are a good fit for the employer.

Mac Prichard:

We’ve talked about cover letters, what about resumes? What are your tips for customizing your resume before sending it off to an employer?

Monica Haut:

You want to highlight in your resume things that are mentioned in the job description. So, if the job description is calling for a specific skill or using a specific piece of equipment or software, you’ll want to highlight that, so that it’s top of your bullet point list on your resume.

Mac Prichard:

Any other tips for customizing your resume besides those you just shared?

Monica Haut:

The other thing is, make your resume easy to read, and by that I mean, use bullet points, and don’t overcrowd your resume. You don’t have to put every single little thing about yourself or your work history on a resume. It’s just about highlighting some of the top things about you. Your top skills, some top accomplishments, not everything. That’s something that will be discovered through the interview process.

If you overcrowd your resume, at least for someone like me who has seen a gazillion resumes, it’s very difficult for me to focus on it and want to read everything that’s on it, and what gets lost is, if there’s something in your resume that, let’s say, I’ll think is amazing and is great for what we’re looking for, I may not see it if your resume is overly crowded because, I have so many resumes to look at, I might just skim through it and set it aside.

Consider easy-to-read, bullet points, and white space on your resume. Leave enough white space so that it’s just, again, easy to look at, easy to read.

Mac Prichard:

When you think about these two documents, the cover letter and the resume, how much time do you think a job seeker should set aside to customize these materials for each application?

Monica Haut:

Well, I  think that the more you practice it, the easier it’s going to get. So, I would say spend a decent amount of time now to get to know what that feels like, to tailor your cover letter and your resume to each job, and pretty soon it will seem normal, so to speak.

Mac Prichard:

Good, well, you mentioned interviews, let’s talk about that. While our focus today is about customizing application materials, as a hiring manager, do you find sometimes when you interview candidates, that they’re giving you canned answers?

Monica Haut:

Yes, it happens all the time and an interview is nerve-wracking for many people. So, I think it’s just important as the interviewee, remember to be yourself, remember to breathe, remember that it’s okay. Everybody is human that’s in this interview, and really, the interview is a two-way street. You know, the employer is interviewing you and you are interviewing them. The ultimate goal, unless you’re just out looking for a job, the ultimate goal is to find something that you are going to be satisfied with and that the employer is going to feel like they’ve added great value to their team.

Mac Prichard:

I’m struck as we talk, how many times you’ve encouraged people to be themselves. Why is that so persuasive to an employer, when a candidate does that, both in the application materials and in an interview?

Monica Haut:

The first thing that comes to mind when you ask me that is confidence. So, when…and it’s easy to spot. When someone comes into an interview and is being themselves, and they’re giving honest and real and hopefully positive answers, I know that’s not always easy, but if someone is doing that, I can tell that they are confident in who they are and what they bring. If someone comes into an interview and is just giving a bunch of canned answers and asking generic questions, like, “How many employees work here?” Or things that aren’t that meaningful.

Mac Prichard:

Alright, well, Monica, it’s been a great conversation. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Monica Haut:

Well, there’s a lot of uncertainty out there right now. We’re living in a new reality and it’s not always easy, and so what’s next for me is to work on staying positive, and work on what I can do to best help the people in my life and the people that I work with feel good. I wish I could say, “Oh gosh, I know exactly what’s next.” I don’t but I’m doing my best to stay optimistic and I’m looking forward to everyone, all of us, turning a corner and for life to get better.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know people can learn more about your work by visiting your company’s website, www.hopworksbeer.com.

Now, Monica, given all the great advice, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need a unique application for every job?

Monica Haut:

Well, having a unique application for every job is hopefully going to help you get the best job that fits you, that is satisfying for you, that gives you great opportunity to grow, that’s not just a job.

Mac Prichard:

Make sure your resume shines before you customize it for your next application.

Get it reviewed for free by Top Resume.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

And never miss an episode of Find Your Dream Job.

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Go to macslist.org/shownotes.

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Next week, our guest will be Simone Morris. She’s a speaker, author, and career coach.

So many people have lost jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Simone and I will talk about why you need to take charge of your career after a layoff.

Her tips include being kind to yourself, knowing what you want next, and paying attention to your personal brand.

I hope you can join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

If you’re looking for a job you will love and where you can make a difference, you need a custom resume and cover letter for every application you turn in. Find Your Dream Job guest Monica Haut says custom application materials begin with the specific company name, the keywords used in the job listing, and the unique skills you bring to the table. Monica also stresses the importance of keeping the resume concise, with plenty of white space. Custom applications give you the greatest opportunity to find your dream job. 

About Our Guest:

Monica Haut is the human resources manager at  Hopworks Urban Brewery. It’s a family-owned and operated company that employs more than 100 people across the Pacific Northwest. 

Resources in This Episode: