by Dawn Penfold, CMP | May 01, 2006

InM&C’s February 2006 Your Career column, I outlined the different skills planners need to develop in order to move their career to the next level. In this column, the focus is on the job search itself.
    Studies show the average number of candidates who likely will apply for an advertised meeting planning position is about 250. Your first goal is to get through the initial screening and land the interview.

When sending out your resume always attach a cover letter. This will be your initial contact with the official in charge of hiring, so make it a good one.
    Here’s how to ensure your personal introduction ends up on “A” pile.
    Personalize it. Be sure to include the company’s name and the specific position in your message.
    Keep it short. Don’t ramble; get right to the point. The cover letter should never be longer than one page.
    Brag. Highlight your professional strong points and qualifications.
    Address compensation. If salary requirements are requested, provide an acceptable range. Failing to provide this information could get your application tossed in the reject pile.
    Be a careful proofreader. Check, recheck and triple-check your cover letter for typos and grammatical errors.

The best way to develop your own resume is to think of yourself as a product. Consider the following points. 
    * What can the product do?
    * How will it be packaged?
     * Target the objective.
    * Know the audience and the company (in case you want to tweak the core resume for a specific position).
     * Write and design for fast readability (the typical resume} receives 13 seconds at first glance).
    * For each former (and present) position you list, emphasize your accomplishments. For example, describe how you increased sales, brought in new business, negotiated savings, provided ROI, came in under budget, increased attendance, identified problems or implemented new techniques.

The interview is a sales call, with a unique distinction: You are both the salesperson and the product. Your objective is to sell the product (you) to the buyer (the employer).
    An interview has two parts: the first five minutes, which can count for up to 75 percent of the interviewer’s impression of you, and the rest of the meeting. Of course, arrived well groomed and dressed for success.
    To best prepare for this encounter, research the company as if you were buying its stock:
How long has the company been in business? How large is it, and where is its headquarters?
    * What are the firm’s products and services?
    * Who are the key people in the company?
    * What does the profit/loss record look like?
    * Who is the competition and where do they stand?
    * How is the company viewed by its clients, suppliers and competitors?
    * Has there been any recent press about the company?

What to ask the interviewer:
    * What are the specific duties and responsibilities of this position?
    * What kind of person are you looking for?
    * What would you consider the best experience and background for the position?
     * Does the company promote professional activities and growth?
    Come armed with additional questions that reveal your expertise and interest in the job.