A Cover Letter – when well-crafted and thoughtfully sprinkled with a little pizzazz – can give you a huge jump on the competition.
So long as you DON’T just use it to rehash the resume!
And… DO use it as a means of jumping the queue of competitors by catapulting you into virtual interview mode … before you even GET the interview!
After spending 15 years defining and refining what works in Cover Letters for 1000’s of resume/career transition clients, here’s my secret sauce for catching – and holding – the employer’s eye!
1) Make a “Pitch” for you in this job!
List the 3-5 TOP benefits (and this is key: as they relate to the posting) of hiring you! Answer the Why You for this Job question now, instead of waiting for the interview. You know it’s always one of the main questions, so impress them NOW!
2) Make it “Sing” to the posting!
The Posting IS your bible. You must dissect it, analyze chapter and verse, then compare it back to your own experience, knowledge and talents! Find stuff that really jumps off the page and write it strong! Avoid “resume speak” … the blah blah blah, uninspired jargon most postings are made of. Figure out a compelling way to say something memorable (and job-relevant) about you so the reader can’t wait to meet you.
3) “Personalize” it!
So those are the 3 main things to do when writing a stand-out cover letter.
And here are a few more final touches to consider while polishing and fine-tuning your shiny new cover letter.
Shift your Perspective!
When composing, put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes! Are you addressing the biggest “asks” of the job posting? The better you can articulate the benefits of “buying” you, the more likely you’ll make it to the next stage.
Does what you’ve written make YOU want to pick up the phone and call you? If not, you need to take another run at it.
Presentation, presentation, presentation!
That extra sumthin sumthin that makes it easy on the eye. White space, yes, but not too much. Prose sections, yes, but not just prose. You can quickly lose a gem in an undifferentiated blanket of prose. Bullets and italics are your friends. So make it “stand out” in format, as well as in content.
Use bullets to make your “Pitch” pop!
Incorporate a few Testimonials - quotes from personnel evaluations or letters of recommendation.
Add a few pertinent accomplishment statements.
Categorize your Skills – break ‘em down into components of the whole to prove you have equivalent experience, even if you don’t have a formal piece of paper!
Anticipate potential “bombs” that could lead to assumptions that, without an explanation, might be leapt to incorrectly!
Despite what everyone (and I do mean everyone, because I hear this from clients every day), there is no absolute rule about cover letters being “no more than 1 page”. When it comes to resumes, I often write 3-4 pages. And Executive, C-Level and government resumes are often 3-4 pages!
The same goes for cover letters – don’t feel confined to a single page if you have more to say that can’t really fit properly in a resume. Especially when you’re making a career change or adjustment. I’m convinced I’ve gotten certain interviews, myself, because the cover letter -- at 2 pages -- explained something about me that a resume simply couldn’t.
Looks Count, too!
So always, always, always: edit and proofread multiple times. Read it out loud. You’ll often hear an error before you see one, especially after you’ve been poring over the same document for days on end!
There, that’s it! Not too difficult, huh? So now … all you have to do is sit back and wait for the phone to ring!