If you were a hiring manager and read your cover letter, would you want to interview you? Read on for my secrets to engaging cover letters guaranteed to get you noticed!
Most people assume that cover letters aren’t read which means they either don’t include one, they write a boring monotonous one or they write it for the wrong audience.
Let me tell you a secret, you are right but also oh so wrong. Recruiters most of the time do not read cover letters – we just do not have the time. We receive on average 250 applicants per job posting (I’ve had up to 1000 before!) so we need to focus on the hard skills – do you have what it takes to do the job.
BUT, and this is a big but, a lot of hiring managers read the cover letter. They typically only see the top 10-25 candidates and they not only want to see if you could do the job but also do they think you have what it takes to be a member of their team. So if you are going to take the time to write a cover letter make it engaging and dynamic!
And even if the hiring manager doesn’t read it, just having one shows that you are willing to go above and beyond for this job so even for those industries where the likelihood of it being read is slim, I still recommend sending one in. It doesn’t hurt to spend an extra 10-15 minutes on a job you really want does it?
Most cover letters that I have read throughout my 15 years of experience are boring and monotonous that is essentially a sentence based regurgitation of the candidate’s resume. I don’t learn anything new about the individual.
When I write cover letters for my clients I have two main focuses: get their personality in it and summarize who they are and what they bring. Today I am going to share with you the ideal format of the cover letter with the secrets of how to get a hiring manager really excited to meet with you.
To start, the cover letter should be addressed to someone! Look at the posting, is there any instruction or a name included? If so, use that. If not, we want to address it to the Hiring Manager – do some digging and LinkedIn research to try and find out who that is! It also wouldn’t hurt to engage with them some way.
This paragraph’s focus is on Who You Are and Why You Are Applying. It is your hook, we want the reader (the hiring manager) to be intrigued with you and looking forward to reading more. This should be tailored to their needs as outlined in the job posting but you can lean on work you have already done in your Modern Resume and your LinkedIn profile by examining your resume objective, your LinkedIn Headline and Summary which all comes from your personal brand as developed through my free email course, the Job Search Roadmap.
Some things that this paragraph must include are:
The focus on this paragraph is Why this Job and Company and How you would benefit. This is a great place to compliment the company, ideally the hiring manager if you can. Talk about their reputation, what they have done right, some recent wins or future projects. Show that you have done your work and that this isn’t just some throw away job application for you.
Then move into what you bring to the table, how you would benefit the company, team and hiring manager in this role. There are a few things you can include in this section. You can talk about your story, or your call to action to this career and job. I always include a summary of how a client can benefit instead of specifics. This is done by taking a look at your accomplishments and seeing a common thread or pattern. For example, do you have a history of analyzing data, noticing areas for improvement and coming up with new processes that makes a team more efficient or productive? If so, write that!
This paragraph could/should include are:
Then move into some specific examples of accomplishments and results that you want to highlight. Ideally these will provide examples to the benefits you listed above. This can be formatted in a three different ways (I use all three depending on who my client is and what they are applying for).
My typical go to is the Bullet Points, what I like about it is that if someone is going to skim over your cover letter they will probably read your opening sentence and your bullet points and the closing sentence so by having the accomplishments that you are most proud of and of great relevance to the hiring manager highlighted then they will definitely pick those up.
I recommend three accomplishments with an added Education bullet point if the job, company and/or industry value education, training and certifications.
I lean on the table format for roles that are heavily skilled based – IT, Engineering, etc. Roles that require a lot of technology. Especially since hiring managers in these industries don’t typically read cover letters and if they do then chances are they are skimming it, so having a table making it clear that you are a perfect fit in terms of your technical skill set is key.
I use the paragraph format sparingly. I do love to use it when writing is a key part of a job since the cover letter is a great place to showcase your writing ability. It also works for roles where you may not have accomplishments that can be backed up by hard data.
Third Paragraph summary:
This is your lasting impression, keep it short and sweet with about two sentences. Open with the three reasons why they need you on their team. Close with a call to action – meeting with them, interviewing for the job, discussing your fit – be confident! Then sign off with your name.
Must haves for the closing paragraph:
The last thing I want you to do is go through your cover letter – is it conversational and does it showcase your personality? Pick word choices and sentence structure that gets a little bit of you in there. We want the Hiring Manager to finish reading this knowing three things
So now you have the knowledge of how to write a great cover letter, well you need a great resume to go with it don’t you? Download my resume checklist to help guide you writing one and if you need more register for The Ultimate Resume Workshop to learn all the ins and outs to writing a resume that gets you noticed!
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.