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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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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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