résumé rx

When Changing Industries, Focus on the Cover Letter

Sunday, May 28, 2006

After two decades in the airline industry, most recently as a customer-service manager with now-defunct Independence Air, Katherine Ann Wijnstein is ready to try her wings at another type of company.

Wijnstein's résumé doesn't need a major overhaul, said Nancy Palazza, president of Alternative Employment Specialists, a staffing agency in Herndon. Most of the changes she suggested were minor -- adding some active verbs to Wijnstein's summary of her qualifications and eliminating some items that were unclear or applicable only to the aviation business.

"In general, when candidates are looking to switch industries, I advise them to keep specific reference to their old industry to a minimum," Palazza said.

She pointed out that for someone making this kind of jump, the cover letter that accompanies a résumé is particularly important. "She needs to be prepared to address what she wants to do and why she is qualified for the specific position she is applying for. She should mention something about the level of customer care she is used to performing and how well that would transition to a new industry."

Palazza suggested something like this: "After working 20 years in the airline industry, I am ready to take my strong skills in customer relations and recruitment into another industry. I have targeted your company because I believe there are similarities in the level of customer care that you expect and the similarity of customer issues. I have worked directly with customers and supervised a team of customer service representatives. I am also experienced in recruiting and training all levels of customer support personnel."

-- Maryann Haggerty

© 2006 The Washington Post Company