The cover letter is too often overlooked. It’s more than just a letter to fill space, and it’s more than just your resume written in sentence form. The cover letter gives you a voice, a personality, and the opportunity to narrate and address a person directly. Elements that cannot be achieved by static and bulleted information on your resume. So it is wise to make an effort to have an awesome cover letter. Who knows, in a competitive market where a number of applicants are as good as you, the decision on who to invite for an interview may just come down to your cover letter. To help, here are 5 tips you can use to make your cover letter count.
1) Address the receiver correctly
If the first words a hiring manager sees are, “To whom it may concern”- you’ve already raised a red flag. At the very least, before sending, know who you are addressing. Now, this may be a little difficult with larger companies, but if you have your sights set on a startup, or smaller firm, then you can make it happen. To get these details, you may try any of the following:
- Look for the company’s website and search for the hiring manager.
- Look up the company’s LinkedIn page and find the people working under human resources for that company.
- Call or e-mail the company and ask for the information.
It’s not difficult, and addressing properly can set you apart from the others.
2) Personalize depending on tone.
Don’t be the type of jobseeker who has a fixed template and sends it to hiring managers without making adjustments. Unlike your resume, the cover letter gives you the opportunity to speak with a certain tone or voice. You can start showing them a bit of your personality. Another suggestion you can try is to write your cover letter in the same tone as how the company speaks. You may check the company’s social media pages to get an idea on their tone, and you can pattern your cover letter’s voice to that. Don’t be too formal if it is not needed. It’s ok to have a fixed template or outline for the cover letter, but make sure to personalize each one. Hiring managers can smell the difference between a custom-made letter and a generic one.
3) Tell a story.
Since the resume is usually in bullet form, it does not give you the opportunity to tell a story. Use the cover letter to narrate experiences that are relevant to your application. This is especially helpful if you are switching industries. You can narrate what led you to make a change, and what makes you qualified despite your lack in experience. Having the ability to tell a story humanizes you and your application, making you more relatable to the hiring manager.
4) Match your resume content with the job requirements.
Many people recommend you avoid repeating your resume content in your cover letter, and we agree. However, this doesn’t mean you should take it literally. Your cover letter gives you the opportunity to connect the skills and experiences in your resume to the attributes required to fill the job you are applying for. Take this time to highlight what you can do for the company by referring to what you have already been able to do. This is vital, especially to connect details in your resume which may not be directly related to the job.
5) Do not highlight negative attributes.
This is an obvious tip but sometimes, it may get overlooked. You may subconsciously highlight negatives. Negatives show up in your cover letter in the forms of sentences beginning with “although”, “even though” and “despite”. For example, “despite having difficulties dealing with the international market, I am still able to get sales from this segment.” Job seekers tend to do this to either set expectations on their weaknesses, or to show how they overcome that weakness. Unfortunately, what it really does is call to attention a weakness you have that may be a deal breaker for that company. It’s good to be transparent, but you should also highlight yourself in your best light. If you leave that out, it probably will not cross the mind of the hiring manager. If it comes up during the interview, that’s when you mention it followed by how you overcame it. But not in the cover letter.
We were taught to always put our best foot forward, and to make a great first impression. For jobseekers, this first point of contact with your potential employer, who could be the key to getting your dream job, is the cover letter. So make the most out of the opportunity it gives.
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