by Debra Wheatman
In this article, I am going to demonstrate the mechanics of a well written cover letter. I hope this provides some knowledge about the parts of a cover letter, and enables you to generate interest from a hiring manager.
1. The Salutation (The Hello)
Get a name, any name. By hook or by crook try to get a name. Sometimes you can’t – then try To whom it may concern or Dear hiring manager.
Dear Hiring Manager:
2. The Opening (The Grab)
Your opening paragraph is your introduction and presents the reader with some immediate and focused information regarding the position you are pursuing and a few core competencies that demonstrate your strength:
Having contributed as an operations and general business leader, I am writing to express my interest in [Name of Position] with [Name of Company]. You will see on the enclosed resume I turned around an under-performing business, substantially improved productivity and employee morale, and possess critical and creative thinking skills that will facilitate my swift contribution to your sustained growth.
3. The Second Paragraph (The Hook)
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!
Tips 3-5 and the complete Mashable article
For demonstrating that you’re serious about an advertised job, sending a CV / resume by itself is rarely enough. Your education and job experience may show that you have the technical skills for a role, but most resumes are only successful at portraying hard facts. Without the perfect cover letter to complement your Curriculum Vitae, you’ll be missing opportunities to truly introduce yourself to the hiring manager tasked with the decision to approve or reject you.
The perfect cover letter is a blend of formality, personality, and just plain showing off. It might be tempting to send the same application to everyone in order to increase your chance of receiving a ‘yes’, but a cover letter that isn’t tailored to the company and role risks saying to an employer, “this opportunity doesn’t mean that much to me”.
There are plenty of resources on the web to help you write the perfect cover letter from scratch, but I’m going to assume that you’ve got the core principles down. What follows are five quick wins that you may not have yet considered and are easy to implement – but could make all the difference between being ignored and being asked to interview.
5 tips to help you write the perfect cover letter:
Address the correct person
People like to be made to feel important – it’s one of the fundamental aspects of our human psychology. Beginning your letter with “To whom it may concern” doesn’t speak directly to the reader and demonstrates that you’re either too lazy or lack the resources to find out who is in charge of recruitment. Do your homework and your cover letter is more likely to be plucked from the pile.
Mimic the job spec
As I said earlier, the perfect cover letter should be tailored to the role in question, which has conveniently been described for you within the job spec. Read it thoroughly to determine what it is that the company is looking for, and then use it to ensure you stay on topic – utilising some of the same words and phrases where appropriate.
See all 5 tips and the complete article
You don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression and when it comes to applying for a job your cover letter is usually the first thing most employers will see. This is your chance to say “Hi, I’m here and you should really hire me” and any error will be the written equivalent of tripping over as you enter the room or spilling tea all over the boss.
It says everything about you right from the start – and that could be the bad as well as the good. It’s true that we can learn from our mistakes, but you really don’t want the application for the job of your dreams being the place to make them, do you? So ensure you don’t make them in the first place and enhance your chances of being invited for an interview by making sure your initial application stage is spot on!
Here are some of the most common – yet avoidable – cover letter mistakes that you need to guarantee you don’t make when applying for your dream job:
3) Not writing enough:
The secret to a great cover letter is getting the balance just right. Too long and you will lose the attention of the person writing it (they might receive hundreds of letters for just one job), too short and it won’t say enough about you to really catch their eye. Aim for around 200-250 words maximum and pick out some of the key reasons you feel you are the ideal candidate for the job, trying to focus on one major success story you are particularly proud of. “I successfully increased revenue by 200% during my time at the company”, for example.
If your letter is good enough then you’ll have the opportunity to tell them more about yourself at the interview stage.
4) Using generic text (To Whom It May Concern):
Whatever you do never use these five little words to address a cover letter. And come to think of it, Dear Sir/Madam isn’t much better either.
Do whatever you can to find out the hiring manager’s name, and address your letter to that person directly. Anything else will make you appear lazy and less than bothered if you get the job anyway.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask who it is that’s hiring for this position. You might get passed from pillar to post initially but remember, it’s a real person you are trying to impress here and little details like this can make a huge difference.
See all 5 mistakes and the complete TheUndercoverRecruiter article
By Lily Herman
Cover letters: They strike fear in the hearts of millions, and just uttering the phrase is enough to make a grown man cry. Who the heck writes a good cover letter anyway?
Lucky for you, we searched the web far and wide to bring you the best examples of totally awesome, out of this world cover letters that people have actually written. After all, how can you become a cover letter ninja without seeing some examples beforehand?
- Ever wanted to see a cover letter makeover? Alison Green did a little before-and-after action to show just how awesome your cover letter can be. (Ask A Manager)
- One of the most confusing things about the cover letter writing process is how to adapt your letter to the particular industry you’re applying for. The Guardian did a side-by-side comparison of how to format three different types of cover letters. (The Guardian)
- Can a five-sentence cover letter really be the best cover letter ever? (Harvard Business Review)
Read cover letters 4-8 and the complete article