via Payscale : Why Are Cover Letters Still Such a Mystery?
Cover letters are annoying. They’re annoying to write, can be annoying to read, and while they seem like a no-brainer, many people put far too much weight on them. In fact, it’s easy to spend so much time stressing over the cover letter that you ultimately don’t even end up applying.
But, cover letters are also great! They give you an opportunity to hook someone in a way that your resume alone can’t usually do, and show that you’re not just an hour-clocking robot. (That is, unless a machine is sorting through the cover letters and resumes. In which case, this advice might help.)
I’ve gotten plenty of conflicting advice over the years about what to put in a cover letter, which doesn’t exactly paint the clearest picture for penning a successful one. Fast Company says to forget about them and beef up your resume. An old manager of mine said he loved receiving hard copies with handwritten notes. A friend of mine exclusively sends video cover letters. Some companies want you to buck the trend altogether and tell them a great story (ideally about you and your work). The more you think about it, a paper outline of your accomplishments accompanies by a formal letter really isn’t that interesting. Who’d want to read that?
Is Anyone Listening?
The answer, it seems, is next to no one, and some hiring managers don’t even bother reading them. Katt Hancher, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, and Director of Human Resources at RCG, Inc., says she barely has time to read them. And that she’s not the only one in the industry that gives cover letters the cold shoulder.
“We were recently discussing this at a SHRM social. The consensus was that busy recruiters never read cover letters — no time.”
Instead, Hancher recommends crafting a compelling email when you send your materials over in the first place. Compelling — but short.
“You can say what needs to be said in the email sent when attaching your resume,” she explains. “I sometimes will request a focused cover [letter] in email form, when I need info frequently left off resumes.”
Cover Letters: TL;DR
While some industries will request that you not waste too much of their time with a cover letter (TL;DR), others will be happy to get a glimpse of your qualifications and personality. A great cover letter does both, while addressing why it’s all relevant to the position you’re applying for, and the company overall. Still, finding a character count-sensitive way to do this can be tricky — especially if you know you’re qualified, but don’t quite know how to express that.
Whichever way you slice it, cover letters are a mystery. But there are a few things you can do to make writing bespoke (and they should be bespoke) cover letters easier.
1. Read the job description carefully. And recognize that based on what you’re applying for, some of your experience might not matter as much. Be prepared to spin your smarts in a way that makes sense for this particular role. If you’re a programmer who doubles as a food editor, that’s great, but probably not worth mentioning in the cover letter for tech-oriented job.
2. Open with a strong first impression. Figure out who you’re writing to (LinkedIn is great for this!), introduce yourself, then contextualize your experience in the first paragraph. Give a brief statement of what you do, how you do it, and for how long you’ve done it. This paragraph should be the shortest of your cover letter.
3. Lead them on. Next, lead them to a list of points with something to the effect of, “Here’s why I think I’d be a great fit for your team.” Then address your main qualifications in an easy-to-scan, bulleted list. You should probably include any impressive impact or ROI figures, and call out the most important things you want them to know about you.
4. Organize your thoughts. The cover letter allows you space to use sentences and paragraphs, but do so sparingly. Odds are, the hiring manager is going to be reading through several (possibly hundreds) of cover letters. Make yours easy to read.
5. Play the game. Many companies use applicant tracking systems to skim through resumes and cover letters in search of specific keywords. These are usually outlined in the job description. It sucks to feel like you’re writing for a robot, but these days, you kind of are at first. Pull out keywords from the job posting that are relevant to your experience, and work them into your content.
6. Be specific. Why you? Why them? In your cover letter, you should have at least two good, solid, memorable reasons for wanting to work for the company to which you’re applying. Do you care about their social mission? Are you interested in working for the industry leader? Is there a particular client of theirs you love, or a campaign from the past year that you really admired? There’s obviously a reason you want to work for the company, so say so.
Tell Us What You Think
And here’s your chance to tell us that all of this advice is bologna! How do you handle cover letters? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Tell us about it in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.
via Time : What your cover letter should look like in 2017
Cover letters are a tough and tricky business.
Striking the right balance between formal and conversational—while differentiating yourself from every other job seeker on the market—is no small feat. And the monotony of filling out online applications can make the task downright exhausting.
But make no mistake: a stellar cover letter is still a job search must-have, and it could be key to catching a hiring manager’s attention.
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the job you’re applying for — just like your resume. Study the job posting carefully, and make a quick list of any essential qualifications.
“Job seekers really struggle with what to say on a cover letter,” says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “Taking a second to think about why you’re applying, and why you’re a good fit for the company, makes the process a lot easier.”
If you’re adding a cover letter to an online application, use a business letter format with a header and contact information. If you’re sending an email, it’s OK to leave out the header, but be sure to provide a phone number (and an attached resume, of course). Make sure you’re clear about the position you’re applying for.
Avoid nameless salutations — it might take a little Google research, and some LinkedIn outreach, but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score you major brownie points. “Do not start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’” Holbrook Hernandez says. “It concerns no one.”
2. Tell a Story
To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything.
“The cover letter is a story,” says Satjot Sawhney, a resume and career strategist with Loft Resumes. “What is the most interesting thing you’re doing that’s relevant to this job?” Use that to guide your letter.
Ideally, the story that drives your resume will focus on a need at the company you’re applying for. If you’re a PR professional, maybe you have a list of clients in an industry the team wants to break into. If you’re in marketing, a successful promotional campaign might be the ticket in. “A hiring manager wants to see results-driven accomplishments with a past employer,” says Holbrook Hernandez. “If you’ve done it before, you can deliver it again.”
If you have a career gap or are switching industries, address it upfront. “If there’s anything unique in your career history, call that out in the beginning,” says professional resume writer Brooke Shipbaugh.
3. Use Bullet Points to Show Impact
Hiring managers are usually slammed with applications, so short, quick cover letters are preferable to bloated ones, says Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of human resources at job site Indeed.
“Make your cover letter a brief, bright reference tool,” he says. “The easier you can make it on the recruiter the better.”
Bullet points are a good tool for pulling out numbers-driven results. Job seekers in creative fields like art and design can use bullets to break down their most successful project. Those in more traditional roles (like the one in the template), can hammer off two or three of their most impressive accomplishments.
4. Highlight Culture Fit
It’s often overlooked, but a major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d mesh with the culture.
As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review sites like Glassdoor. Oftentimes, employers will nod to culture in a job posting. If the ad mentions a “team environment,” it might be good to play up a recent, successful collaboration. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including an achievement that proves you don’t need to be micromanaged.
The tone of your letter can also play to culture. “The cover letter is a great place to show [an employer] how you fit into their world,” Shipbaugh says. “Show some personality.”
5. End with an Ask
The goal of a cover letter is to convince the person reading it to make the next move in the hiring process — with a phone call, interview, or otherwise. Ending on a question opens that door without groveling for it.
“You have to approach this with a non-beggar mentality,” Sawhney says. “Having an ‘ask’ levels the playing field.”
via Aol. : How to write a standout cover letter
How do you write a winning cover letter?
Well depending on how you look at it, this task may be easier or harder than you think. But long story short is it all comes down to strategy.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re not going to win if you write an average cover letter, with zero strategy behind it, that reads like it was thrown together in a 20-minute rush.
Recruiters and hiring managers have seen so many cover letters that it only takes a few seconds for them to recognize if it’s what they’re looking for or not. That means you can’t spend all week working on your resume and then allocate just one hour to write a cover letter—trust me, it won’t be any good.
I’d spend just as much time making my cover letter spectacular as I would my resume. And you should too if you want to give yourself the best chance to get a great job.
Because with tough competition, every element of your job search (mainly your resume, cover letter, and interview answers, but even your thank you note) needs to be executed at a high level. Nothing can be half done and roughly put together. Now that I’ve established the importance of the cover letter, here’s how to write a winner.
HOW DO YOU WRITE A WINNING COVER LETTER?
Based on my wildly successful job search, coaching other people, and reviewing resumes and cover letters myself, I have the experience to know what makes a winning cover letter.
The winning cover letter:
- Makes it crystal clear why you want to work for their specific company
- Provides specific evidence that you would succeed in the role (your relevant past experiences)
- Shows your enthusiasm for the work
- Hints that you’re very confident in your ability
- Has zero grammar, punctuation, or accuracy mistakes
- Supports your resume, doesn’t repeat it in paragraph form
- Shines a light on your personality and people skills
That’s about all you need to write the winning cover letter.
Top candidates who win offers will have 6 to 7 of those traits in their cover letter, average candidates will have 3 to 4, and losing candidates will have 0 to 2. However, as you probably know, execution is the name of the game…
MASTER THE RESUME
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In this exclusive guide, you’ll learn the fundamental difference in what separates top candidates from those who go home without interviews and job offers. And this guide is completely free, just my gift to you—so you have nothing to lose.
Via Careerealism : Sick and tired of your cover letters ending up in the trash can? Then stop using the cookie-cutter copies!
Back in the “good ole days” before e-marketing took hold, I received a daily abundance of “promotional junk mail” along with the usual bills and occasional personal correspondence. One that was always fun was the letter from Publishers Clearing House. It always contained the same message…
“… and you [fill in name], are the only one in [fill in place] to receive this winning announcement!”
I may at times be a little gullible, but I wasn’t convinced that I was a winner. Clearly this was a form letter and the only thing that was changed was the name and location of the recipient. So, what does this have to do with finding a job?
Just like a Publishers Clearing House letter, the goal of a cover letter is to capture attention, generate interest, and inspire action. And, just like that Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes letter, most applicant cover letters are thrown in the trash. Employers aren’t gullible – they can spot a mass-mail template even when the writer “cleverly” changes the recipient’s name and contact information.
An Effective Cover Letter Is Not About You
The majority of cover letters are about the candidate and pretty much reiterate what’s in the resume. It’s as if the candidate is telling the employer, “If you’re too lazy to read my resume or miss the important stuff, let me tell you what’s in it.”
An effective cover letter is not about you – it’s about your understanding of the employer’s needs and what knowledge, skills, and experience you have in fulfilling those needs.
The following are some tips on how to craft an effective cover letter:
1. Read the job announcement
I mean REALLY read it; not just the requirements, but also the description of the company and the job details/responsibilities.
2. Highlight all the key words in the announcement
These are mostly nouns that represent specific skills, expertise, and credentials. The following are some of the keywords included in a job announcement for a Procurement Specialist:
- Buying strategies
- Purchase orders
- On-time delivery
- ERP system
- ISM certification
Be sure to include the appropriate keywords.
If you’re applying online, you can almost be certain that your cover letter is going through an ATS. And, as is the case with the resume, the ATS is looking for specific keywords. Be sure to include the appropriate keywords in your cover letter.
3. Identify which keywords you can feature in your cover letter
Use one or two brief illustrations of how you applied the selected knowledge, skill, or credential to help a previous employer solve a problem/make money. Here is an example (note the keywords):
“When first hired to manage acquisition and procurement for J&J Manufacturing, they had some serious problems with production and on-time delivery. They were using a manual system to track purchase orders and RFPs were gathering dust on the previous manager’s desk. Applying techniques I learned while pursing ISM certification, I immediately sat down with the management team to define and develop near and long-term buying strategies and put in place the company’s first ERP system. Within the first year of taking the helm, on-time delivery increased 45%.”
4. Promise similar results and request an interview
“I’m prepared to deliver similar results for XYZ Company and would welcome an opportunity to interview for this position.”
Ending a letter with “Thank you for your consideration” without specifically asking for the interview and stating when and how to reach you, may get you nothing more than “consideration.”
My last bit of advice for personalizing and customizing the cover letter is this: Leave no stone unturned.
Do everything humanly possible to get the exact name of the recipient. Call the company and ask. Check the staff directory on the company website. Research the company on LinkedIn. Tap your professional network. Leave no stone unturned. No one likes mail addressed to “Dear Sir” or “To Whom it May Concern.”
Yes, I know that some job announcements are “blind” leads and it is nearly impossible to know whose name to put on the letter. However, in most cases, a little extra effort on your part can really make the difference.
Via Careerealism : It’s the job of the cover letter to make the person want to read the resume. That’s it. The letter doesn’t get you the interview — that’s the resume’s job. But if your cover letter isn’t persuasive in a different way, your brilliantly crafted resume will never make it to the first pass. So, what makes a great cover letter?
Here are five easy tips to make your cover letter stand out:
1. Keep It Short
Having too much detail in your cover letter will take some of the glory from your resume. In the days of paper resumes, it was called a cover letter because its purpose was to “cover” the other item in the envelope: in this case, the resume. It’s similar to what you might say when you hand someone an information piece of some kind: “Here’s the sales report for this month. The results are excellent, mainly because we introduced the new product line.”
Similarly, tell the person what you are sending and why, with one point that ties in with what they will read in the resume. It’s what the advertising industry calls “teaser copy.”
A cover letter should never be more than one page.
2. Be Clear About What Job You’re Applying For
Some companies have many jobs available and advertised at the same time, and all the resumes probably land in HR to be sorted. So, if you don’t clearly spell out which job you want, why should they take time to guess? They won’t — your letter and resume will be thrown out without being read.
If you are responding to a want ad in the newspaper or online, it may have a file number or job number associated with it. Make sure you quote that number so that your letter will end up in the right pile. You don’t want to send your carefully written accounting resume to be chasing a job as a copywriter!
3. Illustrate You Have Researched The Company
Review the company’s website to get a feel for its culture and current operations. Find a way to reference this in your cover letter as a reason you are a good fit for the job. Most people don’t take time to do this, so right away your application will stand out from all the cookie cutter letters. When referring to the company, do so by name. Just referring to “your company” makes it sound as if you don’t care which company you work for.
4. Address It To The Right Person
Find out who is hiring for this particular job. If the ad or job posting just gives the person’s title or position, call the company and get that person’s name. If your letter is addressed to Bob Treadway, that will stand out from all those who wrote to Dear Sir/Madam or To Whom It May Concern, and show you have initiative.
If the person’s name is something like Francis or Jackie, again call the company and ask if it is a man or a woman, and address the letter accordingly. It’s just a little extra touch that shows you did your homework.
At this stage in the game, you still want to show respect by using the person’s last name. So, your letter will begin with Dear Mr. Treadway — not Dear Bob.
Technicalities that can make all the difference in your perceived professionalism:
- Use a standard business letter format, even if you are sending it by e-mail. You can find sample formats online.
- Use standard business fonts. Many people mistakenly think that using fancy or fun fonts will make their cover letters stand out. They will stand out, but for the wrong reason! Keep it businesslike.
- If you are sending your application by e-mail, the body of the e-mail is your cover letter, and your resume should be an attachment.
- If you are using the traditional mailed application, type your cover letter on plain white paper that matches your resume.
- Type and sign all your cover letters individually. Avoid anything that suggests it’s a form letter you are sending to many prospective employers.
- Finally, check your letter (and your resume) several times to be sure they contain no typos, spelling or grammar mistakes. Then have someone else read them after you — a second pair of eyes can spot things you may have missed because you are so familiar with the material.
Here’s A Bonus Tip
Don’t be afraid to let your personality show in your cover letter. If you think this job is tailor made for you, say so. The company might just agree!