Thursday, May 11, 2017 Thursday, May 11, 2017

Your Cover Letter Didn't Bore the Employer, You Did

If you’ve been playing the job search game long enough, you know what a hassle crafting the perfect cover letter can become. From writing content that demands attention to formatting and editing, it’s a lot of work to put into something that most recruiters only spend about six seconds reviewing.[1] But as the first thing a recruiter may see, your cover letter provides your first (and sometimes only) shot at selling yourself well enough to warrant giving your resume a glance over.

The Common Pitfalls of Traditional Cover Letters

Even all-star candidates sometimes find it difficult to write cover letters. What do you include? How long should it be? To whom should you address it? The answers to these questions could well vary between jobs, companies, and industries, which means you have to do a little extra homework to find which techniques will work best for your own situation.

Other common cover letter mistakes include

  • Focusing too much on your own achievements
  • Sharing the details of every single job
  • Sounding too trite or colloquial
  • Including misspellings and grammar mistakes
  • Coming across as a superfan of the company applied to
  • Writing too much
  • Talking about something uncomfortable, such as reasons why you were fired from a previous job
  • Summarizing your resume

To add to the struggle of writing a noteworthy cover letter, there’s the extra task of tailoring it to for each job and company you apply to. Companies don’t want a generic anybody-could-write-this-for-any-job letter or resume. Using a letter that reads as a fill-in-the-blank prototype doesn’t give a good first impression about your work abilities and ambition.

Why a Strong Cover Letter Matters

Studies show that 90% of hiring managers don’t read cover letters, 97% make a hiring decision based solely off the resume, but nearly 53% of employers prefer candidates that provide a cover letter.

So why does a cover letter even matter if no one is going to read it (or at least read it entirely)?

It proves that you can follow directions.

One, if an employer asks for a cover letter, it shows you can follow directions. You don’t want to sabotage your chances of getting the job by not following each required step, regardless of whether you think the inclusion of a cover letter is important or not.

It ensures you appear at your best.

Two, when you submit a cover letter, you don’t know if it will be read or not. Cover letters might rank higher in prioritization for some HR departments than others, and putting forth your best effort regardless of whether it will be read can ensure you put your best foot forward – just in case.

It helps you stand out from the pack.

And three, if you can write a strong cover letter (something that many people find difficult), you can use it as a competitive advantage to put you above other applicants. It’s one chance to stand out from the pack, and you should take as many of those chances as you can get.

How to Write a Stand Out Cover Letter

The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert writer to to put together a professional-looking cover letter that will warrant more than just a glance. Take a look at this cover letter format guide that can help transform your cover letter into one that recruiters will want to read:

Avoid colloquialisms.

If you use To Whom It May Concern to begin your cover letter, stop. This antiquated salutation relays two ideas:

First, that you aren’t creative enough to break outside of the same greeting that nearly everyone uses.

And second, that you have no clue who you are addressing and didn’t take the time to find out.

You might think this bland, generic, gender-free salutation is a safe bet. It’s not. If, after some effort, you are not sure who will be reading your cover letter, try using something like Hi [company name]’s recruiting team. Even this simple bit of personalization with the company’s name can help your letter shine a little brighter.

Other common colloquialisms include “I’d like to apply for…” or “I hope to hear back from you soon.” The recruiter probably knows these things, so you don’t need to include them. Instead, focus on using your cover letter real estate space more effectively by filling it with value, rather that the elements that you think should be there because other peoples’ cover letters have them.

Focus on how your experience will benefit the company.

Oftentimes people spend too much time talking about what they achieved in previous jobs, but they fail to convey how those experiences can potentially benefit the company they are applying at.

Granted, you do need to divulge a little about yourself in your cover letter. But make sure that whatever you decide to talk about ultimately connects to how your talents will be useful within the role you hope to get.

Keep it short and simple.

Given that most recruiters won’t even look at your cover letter, there’s no need to engage in a retelling of your entire job history. Many people think the cover letter should summarize your resume, but this simply isn’t the case. Your resume is the place for you to dive deep into your work history, so you don’t need to rehash it in your cover letter.

Instead, try and focus on a couple standout achievements from your previous jobs, then relate how those specific achievements could prove useful in the position you are applying for.

Also, try to limit your cover letter to a few paragraphs, not including the salutation or closing. Your cover letter should definitely be no more than a page, but it should also be long enough to explain why you’d make the best fit for the position.

Proofread your cover letter (for at least 2 times).

If your cover letter is read (despite the odds against it), you don’t want to have it full of misspellings and grammar errors. This indicates sloppiness and lack of attention to detail, both of which might tell the recruiter what kind of a worker you would be if hired.

Your safest option is to have someone else review your finished cover letter for typos and errors before you send it in. You can also use a tool like the Grammarly plugin that can help catch minor mistakes.

Here’s what a good cover letter looks like:

1. Must-have Elements for Printed Cover Letter (in order)

Your contact information
Name
Address
City, State, ZIP
Phone Number
Email Address
Their contact information (if you have it)

Name
Title
Company
Address
City, State, ZIP

Salutation

  • First Paragraph – your overall objective and purpose
  • Middle Paragraph(s) – what you can offer the employer if hired. Include how your achievements relate to the position you are applying for.
  • Last Paragraph – Conclusion and thank you for their consideration

Closing – examples are Regards, Best, Cheers, Respectfully Yours, etc.

Signature – this should be handwritten

2. Must-have Elements for an Email Cover Letter (in order)

Subject Line

Salutation

  • First Paragraph – your overall objective and purpose
  • Middle Paragraph(s) – what you can offer the employer if hired. Include how your achievements relate to the position you are applying for.
  • Last Paragraph – Conclusion and thank you for their consideration

Closing – examples are Regards, Best, Cheers, Respectfully Yours, etc.

Signature

Cover letter writing can seem daunting for many people, but understanding the right format and the must-have elements can help relieve some stress.

Reference

[1] Undercover Recruiter: How Long Do Recruiters Spend Reading Your CV?

The post Your Cover Letter Didn’t Bore the Employer, You Did appeared first on Lifehack.



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