Cover Letters


What is the Cover Letter?
Most people hate writing a cover letter even more than they hate preparing a resume! I recently worked with a job seeker who said that he refused to apply for any graduate roles that required a cover letter to accompany the application. This is was what I liked to call a “resume bomber” – someone whose aim is to apply to as many jobs as possible and just “hope for the best”. Unfortunately, he quickly realized that most companies not only require a cover letter, but demand a cover letter. If a hiring manager sees that a cover letter is missing from the job application, it is more than likely that the resume will be deleted immediately.
From the viewpoint of a hiring manager – if the candidate cannot follow basic instructions in applying for a job, how can they be trusted to perform the job?
Before we begin to go through the importance of the cover letter, it is important to define exactly what the cover letter is and what purpose it serves.
The cover letter is an introductory letter to accompany the resume or curriculum vitae. The cover letter is not a job application, nor should it be a part of the resume or follow the conclusion of the resume. 

In the competitive job environment where first impressions count and the time we have to impress the potential reader is becoming shorter and shorter, the most effective way to ensure that your application stands out from the competition is through a professionally written cover letter. There is, however, a fine line between a cover letter that enhances your application and a cover letter that can actually do you a disservice.
Top 3 Tips to Cover Letter Writing:
First impressions:
You may have the greatest personality and the exact skills required for a particular job, but without a compelling cover letter that attracts the reader’s attention immediately you will never get the opportunity to prove that you are the perfect candidate. Establish your reason for applying to the role within the first couple of sentences. As a graduate you need to establish your “brand” and make it clear to the reader that you have unique attributes that make you the perfect person for the job.
Target your cover letter:
A “one size fits all” approach to job seeking does not work. There is no quick fix to getting a new job and a generic cover letter will be spotted from a mile away! The key to cover letter writing is to individualize the cover letter to the reader and make sure that they know that your letter has been written for their specific job. A targeted cover letter can help open doors and portray that professional image.
Forget the Clichés!
I can’t stand clichés! It’s my number one pet hate. When I read through a cover letter, I want the person’s personality to shine. The last thing I want to read is a cliché. As the hiring manager, I want to feel that what I am reading is a truthful assessment as opposed to statements that do not add any value to the person’s application.
The final point to remember...
If you are serious about your job search, you need to get serious about preparing a targeted cover letter to compliment your resume. As mentioned above, first impressions rule and to ensure that your resume is given a chance, you need your cover letter to shine. In the ultra-competitive job environment, hiring managers are looking for any excuse to delete a candidate’s application. Do not let yourself down by failing at the very first step.
 
Advantages to Preparing a Targeted Cover Letter
Preparing a highly targeted and personalized cover letter and you are already on your way to a brand new job. Obviously, you will need a professionally written resume also! By impressing the reader (hiring professional) and they will enthusiastically move onto your resume. Disappoint the reader and your resume will be deleted.
Will a perfectly written cover letter ensure that you get the job? Of course not. However, a poorly written cover letter will guarantee that your application will not get the attention that is needed to be one of the top candidates. In the current job market there are three areas of your cover letter that you need to pay special attention to: 

Target the employer’s needs:
Too many times, we write our cover letter and resume from our point of view. From the perspective of the hiring manager they want to know that you have the skills to do the job you are applying for. If the employer is looking for a candidate who is going to need to travel and spend time outside of the office then you need to emphasize that travelling is something you are willing to do (and enjoy). If you do not feel that the job is right for you, then the easy solution is not to apply for the job. However, if you do decide to apply for a certain role then target the needs of the employer and the skills that they require from the perfect candidate.
Don’t be afraid to emphasize your previous achievements:
When applying for a job you need to prove that you are the best candidate. The only way to do this is by highlighting your achievements and all those skills that make you both unique and special. Try to establish yourself as an expert. Remember that in order to stand out, you need to be in the top 5-10% of all the candidates applying for the role. While no one likes arrogance, employers DO want to see examples of your achievements that would make you the right person for the job.
Provide examples how you will add value to the organization:
If you don’t believe that you have the skills to add value to the particular organization then why is the hiring manager going to hire you? It is not enough anymore just to present your skills and achievements but you need to prove to the reader that you are capable of adding value to the role and to the whole organization. Providing examples of the added value expertise that you can offer should be highlighted in your cover letter to help differentiate your application as compared to others. 

Your Cover Letter is Just as Important as Your Resume!
Unless you are being recruited by a family member, friend, or close acquaintance, every single hiring manager will want to look at your resume before they call you in for an interview.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a cover letter accompany your resume EVERY SINGLE TIME you send it in and to make sure that it’s tailored specifically to the job you’re applying for.
Think about it from a hiring manager’s point of view. They can receive hundreds of applications for a single job position that they need to fill in just a short amount of time. On top of their regular job duties, they need to sift through all of the applications and find the top 5% to call in for an interview. It’s just not possible for them to look at every single person’s application. So what do they do? They narrow down the field by using the easiest and fastest tool they have – first impressions.
Let’s relate this to a different topic – sports. You’re a coach and need to “recruit” the best players possible for your team...
You’re coaching a soccer team and need to pick 15 members for your squad out of a potential 100 and you only have 2 hours to do so. It’s impossible to take a good look at every single player’s skills in only 2 hours, so you need to quickly narrow your search before you can study the players further. In order to do so, and without knowing anything about the players, you’re going to rely on your first impressions to make the first cut. 

Take a look at the players standing before you – are they all wearing proper soccer attire and equipment? Do they look excited and enthusiastic about being here? Think about it – if there’s someone dressed in a soccer uniform and cleats and another one wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals, one of them definitely appears to be more interested in joining your team than the other. Building on that, and only considering first impressions, one looks a lot more capable than the other. While there may be a hundred explanations for this difference, it really doesn’t matter when you have a limited amount of time – the ones who don’t look interested are not going to make the first cut.
Consider the above situation and think about it from a hiring manager’s point of view. You have 50 applications before you and you need to call 5 people in for an interview. You have a limited amount of time to decide, so you need to eliminate some applications quickly. What can we see without even reading the details of each application? Some have cover letters along with the resume and some do not. The applications without cover letters are a little bit like the people showing up to soccer tryouts with jeans and no equipment. They make a terrible first impression – they don’t appear as interested as the other ones, so why should anyone bother with them?
Applications without cover letters are always the first ones discarded. The presence of a cover letter shows a genuine interest in a job position because you actually took the time to write it. The current economic climate is not exactly one that is overflowing with jobs; it’s not like companies are hiring for the sake of it. Make sure you show a hiring manager that you have taken the time to merely write a letter to show your interest in their job position. If you don’t bother showing an interest in them, the hiring manager will have no interest in you. 

Secret Cover Letter Tips
It’s no secret that the job application process has changed significantly in the past 10 years. Applicants used to send hard copies of their resumes and cover letters to hiring managers via email or fax, but most jobs today are posted online and applications are sent to hiring managers via email.
Applications still consist of cover letters, but the format of cover letters has changed a little bit in the online revolution. Cover letters used to be written in a standard letter format, and while this standard format is still widely accepted today and is by no means wrong, a lot of people are adapting their cover letters to complement the use of email in the application process.
One thing I always encourage people to do is to place their cover letter in the body of their email in addition to attaching a copy. I suggest this for 2 reasons. One, it speeds up the process for the recruiter (as they will only have to open up one attachment instead of two) and two, it helps eliminate the possibility (in the recruiter’s mind) that your email could be spam. Think about it – if you received an email with attachments, you would be more likely to open the attachments if there were some personalized text in the body. There will also be times where the recipient is unable to open your resume attachment, and they are much more likely to respond and request another copy if there is some text in the body of your email.
I do also suggest that you ALSO include a copy of your cover letter as an attachment just in case the recruiter would like to print it and show it to people.
In the grand scheme of things, these suggestions seem pretty minute, but with the competition as high as it is right now, why not pull out all the stops?
 
Three Words That Will Kill Your Cover Letter
It’s pretty easy to recognize a terrible cover letter within the first 2 seconds of reading one. People tend to forget that this document is a sales tool – you use it to sell yourself to a prospective employer. That being said, it’s very easy to ruin your potential sale with just a few simple words.
The most important thing you need to do when writing your cover letter is remember that the person reading it cares about what you have to offer them, not about who you are in general. When you start off with “My name is...” a hiring manager is immediately going to think that he or she is about to read a life story, and they won’t be particularly interested. While it may be anything but a mini-autobiography, it doesn’t matter when you’ve already turned off the reader with those 3 words.
Starting off with “My name is...” is pretty irrelevant when you think about it. Your name is already at the top of the page, or it’s listed as the return name in your email message; you don’t need to remind them a third time. Instead, you need to focus on why you are writing this letter, and stick to just that. 

It’s important to keep cover letters short and very straight-forward. Hiring managers are very busy and they don’t have time to read more than a few short paragraphs. Your writing needs to be engaging and interesting; you want the reader to feel compelled to read the entire thing – you don’t want them to get turned off immediately. Hiring managers tend to skim through cover letters quickly, so it’s important to highlight the most important details: why you are contacting them and why you are qualified. They aren’t interested in much more, so make sure you keep it simple.
Your goals (in addition to eventually getting hired) are to have your resume read and to be called in for an interview, so try to use all the tools you can to make that possible. Remember these tips when writing your cover letter, and I guarantee you’ll find more success in getting called for an interview.
Top 5 Cover Letter Mistakes
If you’re going to take the extra time to write a cover letter that you include along with your resume, you might as well write it properly! We talked to a few recruiters and found out that they frequently find mistakes so annoying that cause them to immediately discard some applications all together. Here’s a sample of some of the mistakes they mentioned:
Letter addressed to the wrong person or company: It doesn’t annoy hiring managers that you’re probably applying for other jobs, but it does annoy them when you don’t take the time to check that your cover letter is addressed properly. Sending it to the wrong person or company will get your application deleted immediately.
Spelling and/or grammar mistakes: You’re probably tired of being told to check and re-check your work, but it is extremely important! When spelling or grammar errors show up on your cover letter, the person reading it is going to think that you either don’t know how to write properly or that you didn’t bother to check it over. Either way, it’s bad news for you.
It’s too long: Cover letters should be short and to the point. They should provide some basic information about how you are specifically qualified for the job in question. That’s pretty much it. Anything longer than a few paragraphs starts to look more like an essay, and it’s an immediate turn-off.
No contact details: It happens quite frequently – people forget to include their name, let alone a way to contact them. While your details may be on your resume, no one wants to take extra time to fish for information that should have been provided for them right away.
No cover letter: This is the worst mistake of all. You’re competing against dozens of other applicants who have instantly shown that they took more time to apply than you.
At the end of the day, you just want to give yourself the best chance possible to be called for an interview. Think about what a potential employer wants to know most about you, and try to convert this into a cover letter.
 




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