May 19, 2018
Are you having trouble getting job interviews? If so, the reason may be that your cover letter is just not up to the job. Learning how to write a cover letter that gets you noticed and interviewed is a critical skill. And it starts with dumping a common misconception that the cover letter is a summary of your resume. Wrong! Let go of that mindset and any other cover letter misconceptions now.
The cover letter is a marketing tool. Sure, the letter will require that you spend time and sweat, but that’s all an investment in your future. The cover letter introduces you: it shows your commitment to the position while spelling out why the hiring manager should interview you, and yes—hire you!
Find out who will read the cover letter. Address that person. While it’s easy to use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Hiring Team,” you will make a bad impression if the person’s name is listed on the website. If the website really doesn’t have the info, try other sources.
The cover letter along with your resume is often all you have to wow the employer, so use all your resources. Employers make judgement calls the moment your application opens.
Research until you know the company like the back of your hand—or look like you do. Find a connection between you and the company. Find press releases about the company. Read employee reviews. Know what’s going on within the company, any changes or new projects.
Step 2: GIVE YOURSELF THE JOB
Can you name the duties and qualifications without looking at the job post? Figure out one or two duties or tasks that will likely take priority. Imagine you start the job tomorrow. How will you run things?
Learn how to read between the lines of a job posting. Look at the requirements for the position and any additional supplements to the application like a transcript or writing sample. Chances are high that an employer will trash or ignore your application if you miss the basics.
Step 3: KNOW YOUR RESUME
Remember the cover letter is not a summary of your resume, so look for specific experiences or leadership roles to highlight in the cover letter. By spending time with your resume, you are pre-writing the cover letter.
Writing the letter isn’t step one for a reason: there’s a whole lot of work that goes into writing. The cover letter tells employers how to read your resume, so make sure you have prepped your resume. If not, find great resources on CollegeMouse like resume and cover letter samples. Or use free services like Resume Builder and Resume-Now.
Step 4: WRITE THAT COVER LETTER
This is the sweaty business part. This means following cover letter structure without boring the hiring manager. The cover letter uses a business letter format: block paragraphs, date, employer/candidate address, salutation, body, and closing. The layout looks something like this:
The Body (2-3 paragraphs)
Take the time to learn more about the cover letter structure. Make an effort because employers remember bad cover letters, but they won’t hire people with bad cover letters. Keep the letter short as research shows that hiring managers prefer letters that are under a page.
Step 5: REVISE, EDIT x 2
Read the cover letter to yourself. You are almost done. Check that you are using an appropriate font and font size. Play with the order of sentences. Jazz up your sentences. Cut sentences or replace words. Then hunt down all grammar crimes and triple check spelling, especially the employer’s name or company.
Go to the career center at your college or share with a friend with a keen eye. Find some online proofreading tools. Hire a freelancer editor at popular sites like Upwork or Freelancer. Effort counts!
Step 6: SAVE THE FILE
Save the file in a version of FullName – CoverLetter .
It makes a difference.
This will not only help you, but it will give the hiring manager a reminder of who you are. I can personally tell you that this makes a positive impression. When I worked as administrative assistant screening job applications, I had a higher opinion of the candidates who named their files clearly. Naming your files shows a dose of your attention-to-detail.
Save the file in the requested file type. Follow directions. If the employer wants the resume and cover letter together, send them together. If the employer prefers word docs over PDFs, send a word doc.
Step 7: MOVE ON
You spent all that time on the application. In a perfect world, the employer will set up an interview within days. If it’s been over a week without response, then it may be helpful to follow up with the employer. After that, move on.
What you do next is important: continue the job search and write a new cover letter. By your next applications, you will have picked up some mad cover letter skills, or better yet, a job.