You’ve filled out all the forms, and you’ve secured your references. You’ve polished your résumé until it has a mirror-like finish. There’s just one piece of the application package that you have to perfect: the cover letter.
According to a 2013 study, the average corporate job opening has 250 applicants. Writing a solid cover letter can be tricky, but doing so can play a pivotal role in you being one of the four to six people per job opening that land an interview. In this competitive environment, you’ll want to showcase your abilities, but you don’t want to seem full of yourself. When you learn how to write a cover letter, you’ll realize that it is possible to demonstrate your qualifications without bragging.
Because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!
Your cover letter is your first chance to introduce yourself to the hiring manager. Filling out forms and submitting a CV can tell a hiring committee whether you meet the basic qualifications for the job, but knowing how to write a cover letter can help you show them that you are a good fit for their company. The best cover letters offer further explanations about items on your résumé that may need more description. They can also offer an opportunity for your personality to shine.
While the goal is to get hired, a cover letter can also help hiring managers understand why you would not be the best match for them. Even though rejection feels terrible, being hired for a job for which you are a bad fit is even worse. Be honest, stick to your principles, and the right opportunities will present themselves.
First, do the basics if you don’t want your cover letter to be ignored right away.
There are a few simple things that you can do to make sure that you get a second look from the hiring managers.
1. Customize the letter.
Job searches involve lots of paperwork, and many applicants make the mistake of streamlining their process by creating a form letter and sending it out to all their potential employers. This is a surefire way to end up in the discard pile. Address the letter to the hiring manager by name. You may have to do some digging on the internet or call the business to find this information. The extra effort is just another way of showing that you care. “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/ Ma’am” are appropriate, but they are impersonal.
2. Name the position for which you’re applying.
It is not uncommon for companies to have several job openings at a given time. Be certain that you state which job caught your interest, and how you learned about the position.
3. Keep it concise.
A good cover letter is one page in length, and it generally consists of three to four paragraphs. Keep your font in a professional 12-point style, and use 1″-1.5″ margins so that your letter is easy to read.
4, Use a professional tone.
When in doubt, err on the side of formality. Even if the company appears to have a relaxed culture, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. As much as it can be tempting to include a joke to showcase your amazing sense of humor, it is best to postpone being too comical. Your joke might not translate well in the context of a stack of applications, and it could be misinterpreted by the hiring committee.
5. Use proper grammar.
You’d be amazed at how many applicants submit sloppy work. If a manager’s first impression of you is that you don’t have mastery over grammar and mechanics, it can cast your entire application package in a negative light. Managers will be particularly unforgiving of grammatical errors if the job for which you are applying involves lots of written communication. Have someone proofread your work, and read it aloud to catch typos before you send it.
Then, write it skilfully if you want to stand out from others.
You only have one page to put your best foot forward. Start by choosing a professional format for your contact information and the hiring manager’s information.
Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself in the first paragraph.
You don’t need to mention personal details such as your marital status or the names of your children. To break the ice, let the manager know where you found the position, and refer to your relevant training.
Example: “When Dr. Norman Jones told me about the GIS Technician opening at your company, I was immediately intrigued. I have been making maps in ArcGIS for the last two years, and I would love to have the opportunity to work for Hazards Mapping Unlimited.”
Paragraph 2-3: Consider the job listing when you are writing this section of your cover letter.
You’ll want to include some specific experiences that relate directly to what they’re looking for in the description. Explain your most relevant experience or a combination of related experiences in more detail. Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm.
Example: “In 2016, I held an internship at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. This experience ignited my passion for hazard mitigation. I was responsible for creating the hazard-assessment maps leading up to Hurricane Matthew’s landfall. These maps, similar to the ones your company generates for its assessments, were used to devise an evacuation plan for the Carolina Lowcountry. From that undertaking, I learned to perform my assessments quickly and efficiently in a high-stakes situation.”
Space permitting, you have another paragraph in which to tell the manager more about yourself. Perhaps you could include an anecdote about another position from your resume. Connect your experiences to the company’s mission and the job description. Be sure to refer to any relevant qualities that you haven’t mentioned yet. You could also refer to information that demonstrates your knowledge about the industry.
Paragraph 4: This conclusion paragraph is a final opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm about the job in question.
Courtesy and professionalism can go a long way when the hiring manager is sorting through candidates.
Example: “I have enclosed my resume and an application form along with this letter. I look forward to the possibility of discussing the GIS Technician position with you further in the future. Thank you for your time and consideration in reviewing my materials.”
Write a closing, and be sure to sign your letter. Note any enclosures that you are including after your signature.
Feel that you’re still at a loss?
Take a deep breath, and realize that there are plenty of resources to help you. Look at some cover letter samples and reach out to people in the industry if that is an option for you. Amy Cuddy’s advice about power poses will be great for when you do land that interview, but it might also be helpful during a writing break if you need to tap into your inner strength.
Job searches can be stressful. Put your best foot forward in your cover letter, and visualize yourself getting that interview. You’ve got this!
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
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