You’ve just spent many agonizing hours updating your resume.
Now, you’re faced with the agony of writing your cover letter. I can empathize with the pain you’re feeling. Although I’m a career coach, I’ve also been there. I’ve had to write dozens upon dozens of cover letters. I’m not just talking about clients’ letters. I’m referring to my own!
Here’s the most common pushback regarding cover letters I hear from clients and job seekers. “Do employers even read cover letters?”
My response is always the same. Many employers do not read cover letters. But many do.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say an employer is looking at 20 resumes that all feature similar skillsets and achievements. How can you set yourself apart? Having a well-written, targeted cover letter will surely set you miles ahead of the pack!
Here is how to write a kick-butt cover letter in four simple steps:
1. Make it colorful!
Want to impress a hiring manager? Especially one who has been spending all day reading a giant stack of boring resumes? In your letter, write about why you’re passionate about your field. Express how your passions align with the organizations’. Or, write about what makes you a rock star at what you do.
You can even add a little humor if it’s appropriate (nothing too off-beat) or mention a fun fact about yourself. Ideally, it should be something that the recruiter or hiring manager might relate to. Some quick research on LinkedIn will tell you if you’ve got anything in common.
2. Don’t repeat your resume.
I know it’s tempting to just cut and paste some information from your resume. But if you’re just repeating everything that’s on your resume, what’s the point of even writing a cover letter?
In order to not repeat your resume, I recommend choosing an experience or skillset you’ve listed on your resume and elaborating on it. For example, let’s say you listed on your resume that you’ve delivered 50+ presentations. In your cover letter, you could provide more detail. For example, a specific time that you were able to capture the attention of an unengaged audience.
3. Address your letter to a specific person.
If possible, find the name of the hiring manager or recruiter. You can use LinkedIn or the company website to do some digging. Address your letter to that person. Make sure to spell their name correctly!
If you’ve got a contact at the company, mention their name in the very first line of your letter. A contact is like gold. Let’s say you met someone at a networking event who encouraged you to apply for the position. You can also mention their name in your letter.
4. Don’t be self-centered.
Resist the urge to write about what you hope to gain from the job. Instead, give specific examples throughout your letter of how you can help the company achieve its goals and why you’re a great fit for the role.
For example, “I read in the recent press release XYZ Initiative to Launch Soon that you are seeking dynamic, team-oriented employees who can think outside the box. While working on XYZ project in my current job, I was able to deliver ABC outcome X2 faster than expected by collaborating successfully with numerous cross-functional teams to reach a fast consensus.”
Although writing a stellar, targeted cover letter can be time-consuming, it’s definitely worth it if it helps you stand out as a candidate!