Here we are at last.
The boring, essay-writing portion of your job search.
Now I know you might be thinking: Is a cover letter necessary? Do people even read these?
I’ve asked myself the same question over the years and I am sad to say that yes, hiring managers do read your cover letters.
Like some of you out there, I’d rather let my resume speak for itself instead of taking the time to write a letter to someone whom I don’t know to argue my way around the qualifications of a position.
Unfortunately, ’tis not the way of the world any longer.
So here are 10 suggestions to help you through this process.
1.) Write a fresh cover letter for each job
Honestly, it would be easier to copy and paste a cover letter from application to application, change the name of the company and send it off into oblivion.
But most employers look for excitement and eagerness in an applicant.
It is difficult to cultivate genuine interest in a recycled cover letter.
Of course, if you have a few awesome sentences or phrases that you like, feel free to reuse them.
Just don’t forward a generic, “To Whom it May Concern” cover letter to every hiring manager.
2.) Don’t be afraid to use a template
I’m not saying to go completely off-script every time you go to write a cover letter.
Using a template can help keep your writing focused.
Below is a generic template, a skeleton letter to help you get started.
3.) Be specific
Take another look at the job application.
Which skills does the position demand? What type of applicant is the company looking to hire?
Including these specific details in your cover letter tells the hiring manager that you are paying attention, that you understand the position, and that you are actually interested in the job.
4.) Be personable
Do a little research before starting your cover letter.
Search the company website.
Find the name of the hiring manager.
Using “To Whom this May Concern,” gives employers a poor first impression. You might as well say
I am desperate for work and have been submitting my resume to every Tom, Dick and Harry that is hiring. I didn’t take a few minutes to learn more about you or your company because I have better things to be doing.
If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, try addressing your letter to the Department Head.
If you cannot seem to find any applicable employee to address your letter to, try using a position title.
Using “Hiring Manager,” or “General Sales Manager,” still shows effort and a general knowledge of operating procedures.
5.) Focus on what you can do for the company
One of the most common cover letter mistakes is focusing on what is great about the company or how the position will benefit you.
Let’s be honest here, hiring managers know what’s great about their company.
They want to know what you can bring to the table.
Try mentioning a potential problem that the company needs to hire someone (you) to solve. Indicate what skills or ideas you have that could serve that purpose.
6.) Highlight the right experience
Don’t hyper-focus on your education.
While your knowledge is significant, the hiring manager is more interested in your experience (work experience, volunteer experience, internships etc).
What can you add to the company walking in on your first day?
7.) Consider adding a few numbers
Statistics speak volumes.
Why? Because it is measurable.
Saying that you are a good sales representative is nothing compared to saying that you increased your company’s sales volume by 5% last quarter.
That being said, when you do not work with numbers every day, it can be troublesome to quantify your success.
If this applies to you, check out “How to Quantify Your Resume Bullets (When You Don’t Work With Numbers)” on themuse.com.
8.) Sprinkle in a testimonial
Testimonials are great ways to illustrate your competency.
Adding a quick blurb from a co-worker or former employer can be a nice bit of frosting on your cover letter cake.
Warning: Don’t over-do it.
A simple “When I was asked to work on a project with my manager he/she said x, y and z,” will suffice.
9.) Be unique
Remember, hiring managers look at hundreds of resumes and cover letters.
Put a little personality into your cover letter and resume.
Interviewers put as much consideration into how you will fit into the company culture as they put into how your experience will help the company grow.
10.) Be yourself
You are pretty cool.
You have experience and skills and ideas that will make you the perfect fit for a company.
Good luck on your job search!