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How to Make the Best Impression Before You Even Meet the Interviewer

How to Make the Best Impression Before You Even Meet the Interviewer

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.[1] 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.

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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.

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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.[2]

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.[3] 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.”

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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.[4]

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.[5]

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.

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Job searches can be stressful. Put your best foot forward in your cover letter, and visualize yourself getting that interview.[6] You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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