Ok, I admit it – cover letters are the bane of my existence. When I am job hunting, I absolutely loathe them and try to do everything in my power to circumvent them. Unfortunately, with the way most companies hire today, a cover letter is a necessary evil – so here are some tips and tricks to help you stand out from the crowd… and start to turn your cover letter frown, upside down.
How to Write A Cover Letter
- The cover letter goes in the body of your email. I’m not sure how or why so many people get this wrong, but do not attach your cover letter… anywhere. When you apply via email, your email IS your cover letter – so put all of the goodies in the actual body of the email. When you are applying via online program such as Taleo or Brassrings, I recommend pasting your cover letter into the space, versus doing it as an upload. This way, you know exactly which cover letter you’ve attached and helps alleviate another blunder. A hiring manager or recruiter is not going to waste time opening another document, so make it as easy as possible for them to get a snapshot of what you bring to the table.
- Have three simple and short paragraphs –that’s it.
- Paragraph one: tell me who you are, where you found the position, which position you are applying for, and one engaging fact.
- Paragraph two: your differentiators – what makes you the best candidate for the job; what skills and/or experience do you have that directly relates to my position that is not highlighted verbatim on your resume.
- Paragraph three: leave me with one fun or interesting nugget to remember you by and also how and when you can be contacted.
- Don’t say “I’m the best candidate for this job:” I’m already assuming you feel you are the best candidate for the job, since you’ve decided to apply. Instead, SHOW me all of the ways you are the best fit – what have you done that would support that statement, what else? Keep digging deeper until you are sure that your dad (or insert another non-industry adult) would understand your accomplishments, without knowing you personally.
- (Shhh… here’s a secret) We only really read these when we’re on the fence about you. This is your supporting material and provides your only other opportunity besides your resume, to make me interested in you. Your tone should be confident, your personality should shine through, and you should absolutely show off your experience and assets. This is your own personal back-up collateral, so make sure it represents you in your best light.
- Remove the gimmicks, insults, and superlatives. If you’re making me roll my eyes, you are going in the no pile. I don’t want to hear what your colleagues say about you, or how great your parents think you are. I want to see actual results – “I launched two HR departments at small companies which resulted in X, Y, and Z. This experience will directly correlate with the change management initiative responsibilities you’ve included in the job description.”