Part two has finally arrived, since there are so many ways a cover letter can go wrong. As I mentioned before, cover letters used to be optional – for me, I never had to use a cover letter to land a job until the last few years. Reason being? There are more qualified candidates now searching and applying for the same job – your cover letter should be your “one-up” against the competition.
It should highlight your qualifications, show a bit of your personality and share teasers or hooks to engage the hiring manager to read more. I know, it’s a lot to fit into a small package. Be sure to read part 1 here and then continue below for even more cover letter madness. Part 3 will include an actual cover letter sample and template (want to get it sooner – sign-up for my newsletter).
Cover Letters Part Two
1. Your cover letter should be specific to each position.
While I also believe in tweaking your resume for each application (if applicable), updating your cover letter for each application is a must. There is no excuse for you not to include only relevant information here – address the hiring manager properly, if you are applying directly, include the company name and the correct position title, and be sure that you address specific accomplishments from the required skills.
2. No one cares about the classes you took and other miscellaneous information.
Being a new grad is ok – hiring managers have all been there too. But when you list “relevant coursework” in your cover letter, or even worse – on your resume, you look like a moron. Everyone knows that real life experience vastly differs from anything you have learned in a classroom. You are wasting valuable space in your cover letter when discussing “I got an A in Accounting,” or “I may not have real life experience, but I took many business courses in college.” These facts may help you when on the job, but it’s more important for you to SHOW how you utilize the skills you have learned.
3. Show, not tell.
This takes practice and is not “natural” for many people. But your cover letter should show the hiring manager how you have accomplished things and a well-rounded look at your experience. Don’t tell me that you did something, tell me what makes it special that you did it. For example:
- Tell: I was the top salesman at the company.
- Show: I was ranked 1 across the 33 sales people at the company, increasing profits over 13% which equated to $30,000 of new business.
See the difference? The “Tell” does not provide me with a reference point, I am left asking… so what? When you show me, I am able to see the significance of your achievement.
4. Leave all of the BS (bull$h*t) off.
There is nothing worse than coming across as a fake, phony, or conceited in a cover letter – and trust me, the hiring manager can spot it a mile away. Your tone should be professional, concise, and to the point. And above all else, it should be fact. Your cover letter (or any job-seeking materials) should be rooted in fact, not smoke and mirrors. If you include items in your resume that seem too good to be true (I am the best at Sales, better at Research and Development, and top-achiever in Marketing), you will be overlooked – even if it’s true. So be consistent about your cover letter topic so it doesn’t sound like BS.
5. Have some per-son-ality, you’ve got personality, walk personality… (did you sing along to that?).
A boring form letter will not cut it anymore. Let your unique voice shine through. Your cover letter should be written in first person (no references like “Anzman does” or Melissa can”) and should come across as though you’re in an interview – condensed into three short paragraphs. Boring is easily overlooked but obnoxious will not win you any friends either. Be YOU, write about YOU, SHOW the hiring manager what YOU bring to the table, and you will have instant cover letter personality.