These are questions Arbertsförmedlingen tried to answer in its webinar from February 14th, 2016.
CrossRoads Intelligence attended for you!
Cover letters and CVs are complementary. The first show what you would like to do in the future, the second are about what you did in the past and how you get there.
The cover letter
Your goal, through a cover letter and in one page maximum, is to make the recruiter want to know more about you and thus invite you to an interview. The cover letter is your teaser. What should be included?
- What professional and colleague you are
- What you are capable of in regards of the job offered and the criteria they are looking for
- The reason why they should hire you instead of another candidate
Build connections between your cover letter and your CV
You do not have to repeat yourself in both documents. The cover letter is used to tell stories, explain how your previous experiences helped you develop your capacities and competencies and what makes you apply today for this position.
Keep some mystery; make the recruiter want to contact you to hear the whole story.
Cliché are general terms, used so many times that we do not know any more what they really mean as their meaning can be different for every single person: “ambitious”, “talented”, “organised”, “team player” …
Take an example and write one sentence or 2 that will demonstrate this strength and the results you had thanks to it.
The better is to prepare all your stories in a long version. You will then be ready to use a short summary of it in your letter while being totally prepared to tell the whole in the interview afterwards.
The experts ‘Tips
- Show your commitment to the job: why did you answer to this application instead of another one?
- Focus on your strengths: you do not have to be a perfect match. What is asked is what the recruiter thinks they need for the job
- Don’t be too formal: you may start your cover letter directly with a catching sentence. What is difficult is to find the right balance between who you are personally and who you are as a professional.
Even if the webinar started by focusing on the fact that cover letters and CVs are different in Sweden from the other countries, few differences have risen. The only ones heard dealt with how formal applications had to be. It would have been interesting to hear further bout cultural differences in how dealing with one’s strengths and how to talk clearly about problem resolution. Indeed, some cultures emphasize individual assertiveness but this is considered as arrogance by others; some encourage teamwork and human relationships, which may be seen as weakness in others. In Sweden, transparency and trust are strong national values. Your application needs to follow these values. Don’t show off; do not draw a better picture than it was in the real world. Be pragmatic and factual.
As an example of this, one of the attendees raised the question of the language to be used in the application process. Immediate reaction of the expert: “Do NOT use Google Translate. Do not ask for help from a friend or a relative. It would damage your image and credibility.”
What to do:
- Write your application in Swedish if you can
- You may start in Swedish, explain that you are still in the learning process and continue writing in English
- You prefer to talk than to write in Swedish, send a video!
The more important is to be transparent and honest.
The CV includes:
- Your contact details: email, LinkedIn / Twitter profiles…
- A summary / Your goals in one or 2 sentences
- Professional experiences and diplomas
- IT skills
- Languages you talk
- Ad-hoc skills relevant to the job you apply for (for instance, your experience as a football coach if you apply for a job as a manager)
- Your referrals: “On demand”
It is recommended to:
- Not to write more than 2 pages
- Last comes first
- Focus on who you will talk to and what for and build your CV accordingly
To save time you may create a global template with all your experiences. It may take a lot of time but it will be worth it as it will be easier to choose which elements are the more relevant according to the applications you want to submit to. Do not fear to have blanks in your professional journey. Swedish recruiters seem not to pay that much attention to that. They just want to figure out if you have what they need to do the job and be part of the team.
- Choose your top 3 (those elements which appear at the top of the first page) according to the job criteria and your strengths. Languages are priority 1? Place this topic at the very beginning just after your contacts and goals.
- Do not write personal details, whether you are married or not, whether you have kids or not… except if it is relevant and prove that you are made for the job
- You are free to include a picture or not. It is appreciated but not mandatory.
- Do not wait for the end of the application process to send your documents. Recruitment process may be over before the end date given on the job offer to send applications. You would assume wrongly that no decisions could be taken before “as they are Swedes” and miss an opportunity.
Once again, few cultural differences are noticed, at least when we compared how it works in France and in Sweden. We could point the fact the it remains more formal in France.
Anyway, a CV which would enclosed all your life with all the tasks, missions, projects you did makes a recruiter analyse how the candidate could fit to the position. It would mean take time (which he/she lacks) and be able to perceive your strengths. Asking him/her to do your job in this process may even make him wonder whether you are committed in the process.
Do you have comments, questions, experiences, tips you would to share? You would like some help in your job search! Contact me!