Roger, my boss, walked into my office, laid a sheet of paper on my desk and said, “Thank you for doing everything you said you would, and so much more.” I must have looked puzzled as I turned my attention to the paper on my desk, “It’s your cover letter for when you applied for the job,” he said before he stepped out and returned to his office.
I had been at University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering for about three of my seven years there. His simple act revealed several key truths that serve well job seekers, employees and managers.
- Cover letter: When applying for a job, keep in mind that the potential employer is interested in you, as a person, but more interested in how you can specifically help them succeed as a business (all organizations are businesses!). Be clear in your letter about what you bring to the table with skills and experiences, but also convey what you can do with those to help the organization. You can only do the latter if you have researched the organization, as well as its mission, vision, goals, plans, priorities, etc.
- Performance: Do what you said you would do. I told new employees on their first day on my team what it was in the interview process that inspired me to hire them. “This is what I saw. Do that. Be that,” is essentially what I’d say. I would also let them know that if they were faking it for the interview that they would not last through the probationary period. Some didn’t, but most did. The point is that employers make decisions to interview candidates based on cover letters and résumés (What? You didn’t include a cover letter as part of your online job application? What were you thinking?), and then make hiring decisions based on interviews. Be clear about how you and your abilities can help them succeed within the scope of the job description. And then deliver on those promises every day. Since the experience described above, I would occasionally review my original cover letter while at subsequent jobs to remind myself of what I had promised.
- Acknowledgement: Managers should acknowledge the good work of their team members (praise in public, correct in private) in both formal and informal ways. I found that team members loved it when I would point out something they did and say “Perfect! That’s why we hired you! Keep it up.” or, “Great job. That’s why I’m glad you’re on the team.” Be specific when pointing out the good deeds and great performance instead of only dishing out generalized “attaboys” or “attagirls.”
- Appreciation: Appreciation is the icing on the cake. It sits atop Maslow’s needs. It stands above the crowd. You get my point: honest, sincere, genuine appreciation takes acknowledgement to a new level because it brings it closer to the team member’s heart and soul. Being told “great job” is nice, but being appreciated is fulfilling, empowering, encouraging and inspiring. What team member doesn’t want to be fulfilled, empowered, encouraged and inspired? And what leader/manager doesn’t want a team of people feeling that way?
Fulfilling work begins with your cover letter, and it should be reinforced every day thereafter.