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6 Skills People Good At Writing Cover Letters Never Told You

6 Skills People Good At Writing Cover Letters Never Told You

Humans by nature prefer to do the task that is predictable and structured so as to avoid confusion and uncertainty. When I think about job applications, I personally feel that only one part of the application process is truly unstructured: the cover letter.

No, the cover letter is not just an extension of the resume and it definitely shouldn’t be. Although, it is defined as a document that “provides additional information on your skills and experience”, there is certainly no reason to simply re-write what you have already written in your resume. What’s the resume for then?

You have the qualifications necessary for the job. However, when you think about it, another applicant probably does too. You’ve always been successful at managing a team. Great! But, maybe other applicants have managed several teams and for the longer period. The resume won’t necessarily make you stand out of the crowd. Your cover letter; however, can tell the employer why you wanted to apply for the job and what you can offer that others cannot. Think of it as your Unique Selling Point (USP).

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You have a few paragraphs to get their attention. It may be your only chance to add personality and spark interest before the interview. If you’re successful, be sure to stick around your phone when it rings.

Here are six tips on writing a compelling cover letter you probably haven’t heard of before.

1. Always Keep it Crisp

I don’t mean short and snappish crisp. By crisp, I mean it should be freshly written and up-to-date. You don’t want to pick up a cover letter you wrote six years ago while you were in college applying for a part-time at McDonald’s. Write it all over again. Any cover letter you write should be targeted towards the company, the specific job, and the position you are applying for. It should include your most recent accomplishments and highlight all of the skills you’ve developed over time. Plus, the “rules” your teacher taught you six years ago are probably as antiquated as your desktop computer at the time.

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2. Do Your Homework

You’re probably tired of hearing this phrase because when it comes to the job application process, it’s everywhere. Research on the company, research on the employers, and research on what they could ask…yada yada. It’s frustrating, I know. But it’s necessary! Yes, even before you write up your cover letter, you need to dig deep into what rules to follow, different types of cover letters, contemporary examples in various writing styles, and other information that would help you write a knock-out cover letter.

3. Draft it Up

Once you’ve got all the points you need, get straight to drafting! Try not to go overboard with the research. Do not re-write something someone else wrote. As we mentioned before, this part of the application process is not entirely systematized. This means that you should give yourself the freedom to spill your own personality and interests in accordance with the position you are applying for. Some of the best two paragraphs can take hours to devise. Give yourself plenty of time to craft compelling reasons for them to hire you and what you are willing to offer. As Eddie Beverage from Live Career says, a cover letter should focus on your employer and the position, so DON’T make it about you and only your needs.

4. Go for Broke

Imagine being an employer for a second and reading the following objective at the top of a resume: “My name is Irene, and I want to work in a challenging position in a reputable organization having a professional environment, prospects of growth, and ample opportunities of learning to develop skill, proficiency, and experience.”

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If you are perceptive enough, you probably already know that this person copy-pasted an overly-long sentence off of another resume and doesn’t mean a word of it. Employers complain that MOST applicants tend to be overly predictable and quite boring. Given the amount of time employers have to scan resumes and cover letters during the screening process, you have only a few seconds to get their attention. How do you stand out? Push yourself to take that risk and give your cover letter a spin by adding pizzazz to your intro. It might be risky, but it is the only way you ensure you will grab the employer’s attention.

As marketing expert and influential speaker Seth Godin says, “In a battle between two ideas, the best one doesn’t necessarily win. No, the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it. ― from his book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

5. Lean on A Friend

Ask a friend with fabulous writing skills to do you a favor and edit your final document. Not only will a friend give you a different perspective (like what you should or shouldn’t be including), but also correct your over-looked mistakes.

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6. Print it Out

Chances are that you’ve done your spell-checks, payed careful attention to those green or red flags, and already asked a friend to give it one final look. Now, you’re ready to attach it and hit send. Wait, don’t do it yet! Before you do that, print it out and read it aloud. When you’re trying to spot mistakes, this technique works like magic.

Even if a cover letter isn’t required, don’t skimp on what could be your only chance to make an impression. The cover letter isn’t meant to be an agonizing step to the application process, but rather an opportunity to “Sell Yourself” differently compared to others. So, CARPE DIEM…. Tell a story your resume could never narrate.

Featured photo credit: Tom Hanks/Maria Elena via flickr.com

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

Reference

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