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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 June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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