7 Tips From the Hiring Experts to Create a Stand Out Cover Letter
It’s time consuming and often tedious...but is a carefully crafted cover letter the real key to landing an interview?
After the initial rush of excitement that comes with discovering a promising job prospect, your focus is likely to shift to making sure your resume’s finally updated and tailored nicely to match this position. After that, all you want to do is post it off and relax, waiting for the universe to act in your favour, right?
We all know how depleting this time consuming process can be...and it’s not over just yet! Welcome the cover letter writing blues! If you're prone to shortcuts or just a rookie it can seem all too easy… cue a cheeky copy and paste of one of those generic online job board offerings or simply adjust the address of the last cover letter you wrote. You’re probably thinking, who reads them anyway? All the important info’ is in the CV. Cover letters are just a banal waste of time, no? The answer you’re rooting for is not this one! In the current Covid climate of dwindling job opportunities, the cover letter, asked for or not, serves an essential purpose particularly for you!
Walk in the shoes of the hiring managers for a moment. Imagine having to work through 10s or even 100s of applications per job opening. They probably want to make quick decisions, like after a 6 sec browse if you’re lucky, based on first impressions. So yours better be interesting and enticing to get on the interview pile! They’re very unlikely to reward wordy or convoluted cover letter content…it makes them have to work way too hard! Many hiring managers or recruiters say they base their first interview offers solely on the cover letter and are particularly adept at weeding out the cookie cutter versions for the ‘no’ pile! So, what are they wanting to see in this letter? Apparently in a nutshell, it’s interest in this job, how you can add value to their business and originality in introducing yourself.
7 Tips from the hiring experts to create a stand out cover letter:
In-demand, successful employers will tell you, your cover letter must make you stand out from the crowd! You must grab and hold their attention from the get-go! Think about hooks like, what makes you unique, interesting and a great fit for the company’s culture. Ok, but how can you craft a letter with this impact?
1) Don’t make the rookie error of being too impersonal. Find out and use the name of the hiring manager making sure you spell it right. You can imagine the manager smarting at the incorrect spelling and hurriedly slapping your application in the ‘no’ pile. Yes, your rejection could be as simple as that. It smacks of sloppy work practices! Further personalize your letter by describing what drives you in this industry and inspires you about working for this company. In other words, give them some love while sharing your passion. Use quantifiable data to show your ability and accomplishments e.g., ‘I currently manage a team of (x) number of people’ etc. On the flip side, be careful not to overshare irrelevant personal details.
2) Tailor your letter to the open position and company. Some research maybe needed here, such as, look at their LinkedIn company profile to get a better idea of who they are. Use the keywords and phrases from both their LinkedIn profile and their advertisement to show you’re a good fit and have the required skills etc. This will also enhance your chances of getting a hit if they are using an ATS (applicant tracking system).
3) Spell out your usefulness to the company, as clearly as you can and why they’d be mad not to hire you. This may be to show you know what their issues are and how you can help to solve them. Again, do your research.
4) It pays to send your cover letter in the body of your email or as an attachment. This is because the hiring managers won’t be motivated to open, say, Google Drive which takes time when one is ploughing through 100s of job applicants. MAKE THEIR JOB EASY!
5) Take out any formatting and write in simple text. At the same time, be creative in your approach but not outlandish or obscure. It’s all about balancing your content and stylistic flair to be memorable.
6) Don’t be timid about name dropping anyone you know at the company who could vouch for you or provide a reference. Do ask the person first though. Inside referrals are favorably received and usually lead to an interview.
7) Some candidates might prefer to use a cover letter formula to keep them on track. E.g., the 5-paragraph cover letter:
i) an introduction paragraph that presents you to the company, so be passionate about wanting this job.
ii), iii), iv): in each of these tell a different story of a skill or experience relevant to the position. Use bite-sized chunks of information that will be readily recalled by the hiring committee.
v) a closing and call for action: this restates your interest in the job and asks for action by scheduling an interview. Also, provide your contact details in anticipation of an interview offer.
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