Job hunting can be quite a grueling and tiring process, not to mention quite demoralizing if it’s not going the way you had hoped. Scouring through online job posts, spicing up your resume, prepping for interviews - none of it is fun. Most job seekers find the cover letter the most challenging part of the process. There is a lot of conflicting advice on the internet and it can be overwhelming and hard to know where to start. Let this article guide you on how to write an effective cover letter.
Should you include a cover letter in your application?
The answer is almost always yes. There may be instances when you’re applying online and you may not be able to include a cover letter. Whenever possible, send a cover letter as it’s your best opportunity of getting the attention of the human resources (HR) person or hiring manager. It is a very important opportunity to differentiate yourself from everyone else. It’s even more important now than it ever was due to the changing job market.
A good place to start is research
Research plays a pivotal role in every successful job hunt. Before you start putting together your cover letter, find out more about the company and the specific job opportunity. Not only should you carefully read the job description, but you should also study the company’s website, its executives’ social channels, and employee profiles on LinkedIn. This will help you customize your cover letter and it might also help you decide on the right tone for the message you’re trying to convey i.e. think about the company culture of the organization you’re applying for and that should help you decide on whether to take a more conservative vs. modern approach.
Identify your past, but more importantly focus on your future
The goal of your resume is to look back at your experience and where you’ve been, your cover letter should focus on the future and what you want to do and accomplish. Imagine your cover letter as the bridge between the past and the future that explains what you hope to accomplish next and why.
The COVID-19 epidemic has had a major influence on millions of people who are making career changes - voluntarily or involuntarily. Some people will need to pivot and rethink how their skillset relates to a different role or industry. There is less of an expectation that you’ll be applying for a job you’ve done before. You can use your cover letter as your platform to explain the shift you’re making and to sell your transferable skills.
Don’t be generic with your opening
Generally, people begin their cover letter with ‘I’m applying for X job that I saw in Y place’ - scrap that. Instead, lead with a strong opening, one with a punch line - why this job has your interest and what you will be able to bring to the table. For example, you may start your letter, “I’m a digital marketing expert with more than 10 years of experience looking for an opportunity to apply my new skills in new ways, and I’d love to bring my expertise and enthusiasm to your growing development team.” The likelihood that the hiring manager is reading a stack of these is very high, so you want to catch their attention.
What is your value?
The hiring manager is looking for candidates who can help the company actively solve problems. Use the research from the earlier step discussed to show that you are knowledgeable of the company's products and services and some of the challenges it faces. Now, you don’t need to be very specific but you might want to mention how that company's particular industry has been affected by the pandemic. Once you have highlighted the challenge then discuss how your experience has equipped you to meet those needs; explain how you solved a similar problem in the past or share a relevant accomplishment. You want to be able to provide evidence of the things that set you apart.
“When you don’t get hired, it’s usually not because of a lack of skills, it’s because people didn’t believe your story, that you wanted the job, or that you knew what you were getting into,” says Jodi Glickman, a communications expert and author of Great on the job. Managers will always tend to go with the candidate who has made it seem like this is their dream job, so make it clear why you want the position. If you are not interested or excited about the company or the role then there is no need to apply.
Quality beats quantity
Many of the articles found online suggest keeping your cover letter under a page. But Glickman says even shorter is better. “Most cover letters I see are too long… it should be brief enough that someone can read it at a glance.” Keep it short and sweet and refrain from rambling.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback
The second pair of eyes is always better than one. So, if you have the chance then share your cover letter with a few people. Once your friends have read it, ask them if it’s clear what your main point is. What’s the story you’re telling? Are they able to summarize it? Also, don’t be afraid to ask them what they think might be wrong with the cove letter as you can always improve.
Let Optimum Staffing Solutions guide you on your job hunt
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