Entering the workforce after 10 years of self-employment...
July 24, 2006 7:26 AM   Subscribe

ApplyingForAJobFilter: I am applying for a job for the first time in a decade (I currently work for myself) and am a bit confused. Some specific questions inside.

I need to change my career because my current one makes me miserable. I have some rather specific questions:

1. A place I want to apply at has multiple openings in different departments. Do I send one resume for each job along with a different cover letter? Or do I write one cover letter indicating I'm interested in the specific jobs and send it with one resume? (The contact info for all the jobs is the same.) If I'm supposed to send multiple resumes/cover letters, should I make them all different (besides indicating the job being applied for)? I would assume so but imagine that it would be weird for the person receiving the letters as, of course, I'm supposed to make it sound like this is the job for me, right? Won't multiple letters for vastly different jobs sound like I'm lying?

2. They ask for 3 references. Do they just mean names and phone numbers of the references or do I supply letters with the resume? If the latter, what if I only have 1 or 2 letters, but I have 3 names? The exact wording is "Please submit cover letter, résumé and three references..."

3. I've worked for myself, successfully, for 10 years. What do I write on my cover letter to explain to people why I'm re-entering the job world? (Most everyone I know is jealous of my current job and work schedule and they find it bizarre I want to stop even after I explain.)

My reasons are:

a. Need a job that gets me out and about working with people as opposed to working in isolation, which I do now.
b. Want health benefits.
c. Want a rigid schedule.

Any help or suggestions appreciated. Thank you!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. Err.. don't know. Can't help.

2. When I submit references, it's generally just a name, a phone number, and a sentence or two about how I know the person: where I worked with them, personal relationship, etc.

3. Explain that exactly. Employers will like that you're clearly self-motivated enough to be able to work for (and support) yourself for ten years, but they'll also like to hear that you prefer not to. Be honest and forthcoming, and they'll be impressed and interested. From the point of view of a hiring manager, your situation might be the ideal one for a prospective employee. "Worked for yourself" implied organization skills and business knowledge (and a respect for the challenges higher-ups deal with) that few employees have.
posted by Plutor at 7:34 AM on July 24, 2006

implied implies
posted by Plutor at 7:35 AM on July 24, 2006

1. I'd say if the contact for all the jobs is the same, send one resume and cover letter. In the letter, express intrest in the different positions and why you feel you are qualified for the different positions.

2. Yep, name and phone number. I recently submitted references and included an email as well, but that's not completely necessary. If they do check references, they'll probably call anyway. I submit them as a separate sheet, formatted in the same style as my resume and cover letter.

3. Just be honest, they'll appreciate it. You don't have to go into a lengthy explanation in your cover letter, and on your resume you can put "self-employed" or whatever. In the interview, just explain to them the a, b and c you noted - they are all good and valid reasons, and any decent person would agree with you and be able to see your side of the situation.

Good luck!
posted by AlisonM at 7:42 AM on July 24, 2006

1. That single contact person may just be distributing the information to department heads, in a larger company, though. Give that contact person a call and see what works for him/her. A targeted resume/cover letter is almost always perferable to a generic one, though.

2. I agree: name, phone number, relationship. Though if those references are expecting that by providing you with a letter they won't have to bother with phone calls, you've got something to deal with on your hands

3. Plutor hit this one on the nose.
posted by ThePants at 7:53 AM on July 24, 2006

Response by poster: Hmm, you have a point, ThePants--actually, a person is not listed as the contact. "The Hiring Committee" is. Therefore, I'm probably mistaken in thinking they're all viewed by the same person/people for every job.

In addition, no person's name is listed and the thing says not to call... so I don't have a name to address my cover letter to. Should I just address it "To the Hiring Committee"?

Also, another question: one of my references was my boss at a company I consulted for. He now works at another company. Is it weird to list him as a contact (he'd given me permission to list him when he worked where I consulted) for job X considering he's now at job Y? He'd be my best reference for one of the particular jobs.

Thanks for all the answers so far.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:06 AM on July 24, 2006

You should try to find out who the actual hiring manager is for each position that interests you. You might know someone who already works at the company who can find this information for you. (And if you're not already on Linked In, you should join up and start building your network.) When you find out who actually has the power to hire you (not the Human Resources department), contact that person, ask for five minutes of their time, and express interest in the position (using your contact's name in the company if appropriate). Follow up with a letter thanking the manager for their time, reiterating your interest in the position (if you're still interested after your conversation) and including your resume.
posted by Joleta at 8:07 AM on July 24, 2006

1. Tailor your cover letter for each position. It's more than likely that different people will be reviewing your application for each position and you don't want to come off "generic" -- I assure you that recruiters/HR will trash your application if they sense you haven't put in the effort they feel is required. The only exception is if the positions are incredibly similar, and so require the same background/skills/knowledge, and would be reviewed by the same folks. Even then though, you're taking a chance, so I would recommend spending a few minutes to differentiate your cover letters. Your resume, if written well, does not need to be changed at all.

2. As stated previously, references = name, contact info, brief relationship. (Example: Bob Smith, 626-555-1234, bobsmith@reference.com, CEO, Big Impressive Company).

3. As explained but others. But, very important -- be truthful but don't come off desperate.
posted by nearandfar at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2006

What I'm saying is, don't take the job ad too literally when it says not to call. The "Hiring Committee" doesn't want to be deluged with phone calls because they really don't know much about the individual jobs. If you can forge a link (no matter how tenuous) from yourself to the person who will actually hire you, I'd say go ahead and call. If you're not comfortable with calling, you can send a letter to the hiring manager mentioning your mutual contact, expressing interest in the job, and include your resume. Remember, the hiring manager really wants to find a qualified person to fill that one opening in his/her department and will be happy to talk to you if you fit the bill and can explain why you're the right person for the job. The "Hiring Committee"/HR department's job is to screen you OUT!
posted by Joleta at 8:13 AM on July 24, 2006

Is it weird to list him as a contact (he'd given me permission to list him when he worked where I consulted) for job X considering he's now at job Y?

Not at all. I did the whole job-search-resume-references thing just two or three months ago. Two of my three references no longer work for the company where I worked with them. If you haven't spoken with your references in a while, though, you might want to send them an email or call them up yourself first. If they get a call and they say "You Should See the Other Guy who? I worked with him? Hmm..." it'll be a less than flattering reference.
posted by Plutor at 8:25 AM on July 24, 2006

1) Do not write a one-size-fits-all cover letter. Do I understand that you are looking for multiple jobs within one company? If so then it might be ok to write a cover letter that says "I think I am a perfect fit for job #1 because [reasons]. However, I notice that you also have openings for job #2 and #3. I feel that I am very well qualified for these positions because [reasons]."

2) If you have letters, you can send a photocopy. If you don't have 3, your reference sheet should read something like "John Doe, [contact info, position, relationship], letter attached. Jane Average, [contact info, position, relationship] reference on request. " Sure you can just send a list of names and numbers, but when I see that someone is proactive enough to send a reference letter, I am more likely to call for a phone interview.

3) The "why I want to stop working for myself" section will be more or less the same in any cover letter you send. Just say it, ask others to help you refine it. You can phrase things in a true-but-nice manner. For example, "want a rigid schedule and benefits, also want to get the heck out of the house" can be "I am seeking a position with more predictable hours than I currently have. As you probably know, being self-employed takes a great deal of organization and responsibility, yet many factors cannot be controlled. I am looking forward to letting others handle details like health insurance and income tax withholding so that I can truly focus on doing a good job on each project. Finally, in the last few years I have found self-employment to be isolating. I hope once again to be in an environment where colleagues and myself can interact and collaborate."

I am going to recognize this if it comes across my desk, just so you know.

General words: make sure your resume is free of errors and has your current contact information. HR is not going to track you down. Make sure you return phone calls or e-mails promptly. If you use a template, DO NOT put anything in the "goals" or "objectives" section. Delete the section!! Seriously, nothing you can put here will get you an interview, and many things you could put there will insure you don't get one. My favorite was one whose stated goal was to go to college out of state in 6 months. Um yeah, I should hire you to work 6 months and then move away? I think not.
posted by ilsa at 1:40 PM on July 24, 2006

My resume simply lists my period working for myself with the company name I did business as and "Managing Partner" for my job title, like any other entry. If it had been just me I'd have used "Sole proprietor." If you never incorporated I'd just play marginally fast and loose with it and list "You Should See The Other Guy Business Services" or something on that order.
posted by phearlez at 2:52 PM on July 24, 2006

« Older Is Brad Pitt a particle physicist?   |   Should I get a Java Cert? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.