Psst… let me tell you something most Recruiters won’t admit – we don’t read cover letters often. In fact, I barely even skim them. I’d rather head right to the resume. Why? Because most cover letters I get suck.
On the occasion that it grabs my attention, I’ll devour it and get excited about reading the resume. That’s exactly what a kick-ass cover letter should do – entice someone to read the resume. A kick-ass cover letter is almost always followed by a kick-ass resume.
When I get one of those cover letters, I can’t get to the resume fast enough. A job seeker who knows how to grab attention through a cover letter (a very hard thing to do), often knows the art of resume writing or they’re clever enough to work with a resume writer.
Sadly, those occasions are rare and I usually end up getting generic cover letters starting with openers that every hiring manager hates to read…
“To Whom It May Concern” – automatic fail
If you’re starting with that opener, I already have a good idea how the rest of your cover letter and resume will go. I don’t mean to sound harsh, I know it’s not easy to write a compelling cover letter. I often get frantic calls from friends minutes away from a deadline for a job application asking for cover letter samples or “help me write a cover letter“.
Recently, I got this text from a good friend “HELP, I need a kick-ass cover letter!!!“
First things first – it’s about them
Most cover letters I get are often riddled with passive sentences like “this position will allow me to…” and “I really think I will be able to do a great job…“. Think of your cover letter as an ad – do you ever see ads that say “if you buy this product, it will allow us to make more money…” Would you keep consider buying a product when the ad is talking all what they can get out of you? Probably not.
The goal of a cover letter is to entice a potential employer by telling them what you can do for THEM. How do you do that? You use your experience and accomplishments to show them that would add value if they were to hire you and they’ll be kicking themselves if they miss the opportunity to at least give you a job interview.
Forget what you thought you knew about writing cover letters and try this
1) Customize each cover letter
If I had a dime for every time I got a cover letter with someone else’s name for a completely different job dated last year, I’d be a writing this post from my private island.
When you’re job hunting, the very thought of customizing twenty cover letters a day is exhausting. But it’s a waste of time to send a one-size-fits-all cover letter because they usually fail. Better to send five customized and well targeted cover letters than seventy that suck.
The job description is your best friend here – use it as a guide to write your cover letter bringing out key accomplishments in your career that to prove that you do indeed have the skills necessary for that job… and then some! It’s time to toot your own horn.
2) Baby your reader
Long paragraphs rambling on and on accomplish one thing – bore your reader to tears. That’s IF they manage not to get turned off by the huge paragraph and even bother reading your cover letter. Use short paragraphs and ensure that they get your point across quickly.
Learn to love bullet points – people are far more likely to read bullet points because they’re easier to read. But don’t go overboard; bullet point a few areas you want to highlight. You have to baby your reader into reading your cover letter and by including a few bullet points, you’re laying out the most important information for them. If they read nothing else, at least they will read your bullet points.
3) Start strong and end strong
“Please accept this letter as application for …” YAWN.
Starting with something like “as a marketing manager with 8 years of progressive experience, I’m excited about the opportunity to add value to your team…“ is far more enticing.
Ending with “I look forward to hearing from you“ is also another waste of space. Instead, communicate a follow up plan. Let them know that you will call/email in the coming week to coordinate a job interview. The chances that you will successfully reach them may not be high, but so what? You give the impression that you’re proactive.
The whole point of sending a cover letter and resume is to get a job interview, so why not have a clear call to action?
4) Keep it short
Never, ever have a cover letter that is longer than a page. EVER! A great cover letter has an introduction followed by bullet points and ends with a bang. Quick, to the point and easy to read. The tone is assertive but not arrogant and most of all, it gets your resume read.