Ding, ding, ding!
In this corner, weighing in with an Executive MBA plus ten years’ experience as CFO of a mid-size global services firm, Bill Jenkins!
And in this corner, with a BS in Finance, two investment-banking internships and three years’ experience as a financial analyst…she enjoys Candy Crush and hiking in the Adirondack Mountains…Sandra Jones!
OK…let’s job search!
Now personally, I’d bet my money on the more-seasoned Jenkins. Hearing his credentials you’d figure he clearly has it over Jones. But our prize-fighter, like so many other senior- and executive-level professionals, has an Achilles heel: he finds it difficult to toot his own horn; to clearly communicate what it is that makes him more qualified for the job than his competition without seeming self-congratulatory.
How to Leverage your Superior Experience: Example of a Powerful Cover Letter
Given his hard-hitting background, one way for Bill to reign victorious is to share in a cover letter his relevant opinions gained by his longer, more extensive experience in the field; a strategy not available to less experienced job-seekers, simply because they have yet to encounter and solve the business problems that someone like Bill has.
I recently worked with a Senior VP of Business Development in the construction industry who has under his belt nearly 30 years of progressive experience creating new business and leading joint ventures with some of the largest firms in the market. Together we wrote the following into his cover letter:
As SVP of business development at Acme, Inc., a $3.5B construction management company, I led the firm’s expansion from being a local player to a national powerhouse. My strategy was to break with the (then) widely used general contractor project model in favor of the not-yet-proven but imminent construction-management model. While the latter paradigm has since become the industry standard, it was Acme’s willingness to be an early adopter—and my ability to lead them there—that enabled the company’s growth (from $1.7B to $ 3.5B in annual revenues) during my tenure.
It’s this same ability to adapt that will define the construction industry in the coming boom: this time, early adopters of the design-build project model will save costs and lower their operational risk while latecomers will miss out on such benefits.
Now, compared to the standard and ineffective “Given my background, I am sure that I will succeed at your company,” the above packs a much more powerful punch. Its author is obviously confident in his knowledge, has a deep understanding of his industry and is able to communicate well. Furthermore, his cover letter begins to indicate what it will take for his future employer to succeed in the market (the author is already solving the employer’s problems). If there had been any question as to what this job-seeker could accomplish for the target firm, there no longer is.
As a matter of course, less experienced job-seekers are simply unable to produce such insights into their particular industry because they haven’t the experience, the exposure, the successes and the lesson-learning failures that a more senior-level professional has had.
Some seniors and execs may be hesitant to stick their necks out for fear of being seen as “wrong” in their opinions. But this is the advantage afforded the more seasoned professional: if you’ve been around the block, you should be more confident of your assessments.
Note: Offering up your opinion doesn’t have to be limited to your cover letter. Other places to emphatically state your knowledge and opinion of your industry include job interviews, networking meetings, blog posts and articles that you write yourself or comment on.
In sum, leveraging your experience and doing it assertively is a job-search risk worth taking.