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Your Cover Letter Didn’t Bore the Employer, You Did

Your Cover Letter Didn’t Bore the Employer, You Did

If you’ve been playing the job search game long enough, you know what a hassle crafting the perfect cover letter can become. From writing content that demands attention to formatting and editing, it’s a lot of work to put into something that most recruiters only spend about six seconds reviewing.[1] But as the first thing a recruiter may see, your cover letter provides your first (and sometimes only) shot at selling yourself well enough to warrant giving your resume a glance over.

The Common Pitfalls of Traditional Cover Letters

Even all-star candidates sometimes find it difficult to write cover letters. What do you include? How long should it be? To whom should you address it? The answers to these questions could well vary between jobs, companies, and industries, which means you have to do a little extra homework to find which techniques will work best for your own situation.

Other common cover letter mistakes include

  • Focusing too much on your own achievements
  • Sharing the details of every single job
  • Sounding too trite or colloquial
  • Including misspellings and grammar mistakes
  • Coming across as a superfan of the company applied to
  • Writing too much
  • Talking about something uncomfortable, such as reasons why you were fired from a previous job
  • Summarizing your resume

To add to the struggle of writing a noteworthy cover letter, there’s the extra task of tailoring it to for each job and company you apply to. Companies don’t want a generic anybody-could-write-this-for-any-job letter or resume. Using a letter that reads as a fill-in-the-blank prototype doesn’t give a good first impression about your work abilities and ambition.

Why a Strong Cover Letter Matters

Studies show that 90% of hiring managers don’t read cover letters, 97% make a hiring decision based solely off the resume, but nearly 53% of employers prefer candidates that provide a cover letter.

So why does a cover letter even matter if no one is going to read it (or at least read it entirely)?

It proves that you can follow directions.

One, if an employer asks for a cover letter, it shows you can follow directions. You don’t want to sabotage your chances of getting the job by not following each required step, regardless of whether you think the inclusion of a cover letter is important or not.

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It ensures you appear at your best.

Two, when you submit a cover letter, you don’t know if it will be read or not. Cover letters might rank higher in prioritization for some HR departments than others, and putting forth your best effort regardless of whether it will be read can ensure you put your best foot forward – just in case.

It helps you stand out from the pack.

And three, if you can write a strong cover letter (something that many people find difficult), you can use it as a competitive advantage to put you above other applicants. It’s one chance to stand out from the pack, and you should take as many of those chances as you can get.

How to Write a Stand Out Cover Letter

The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert writer to to put together a professional-looking cover letter that will warrant more than just a glance. Take a look at this cover letter format guide that can help transform your cover letter into one that recruiters will want to read:

Avoid colloquialisms.

If you use To Whom It May Concern to begin your cover letter, stop. This antiquated salutation relays two ideas:

First, that you aren’t creative enough to break outside of the same greeting that nearly everyone uses.

And second, that you have no clue who you are addressing and didn’t take the time to find out.

You might think this bland, generic, gender-free salutation is a safe bet. It’s not. If, after some effort, you are not sure who will be reading your cover letter, try using something like Hi [company name]’s recruiting team. Even this simple bit of personalization with the company’s name can help your letter shine a little brighter.

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Other common colloquialisms include “I’d like to apply for…” or “I hope to hear back from you soon.” The recruiter probably knows these things, so you don’t need to include them. Instead, focus on using your cover letter real estate space more effectively by filling it with value, rather that the elements that you think should be there because other peoples’ cover letters have them.

Focus on how your experience will benefit the company.

Oftentimes people spend too much time talking about what they achieved in previous jobs, but they fail to convey how those experiences can potentially benefit the company they are applying at.

Granted, you do need to divulge a little about yourself in your cover letter. But make sure that whatever you decide to talk about ultimately connects to how your talents will be useful within the role you hope to get.

Keep it short and simple.

Given that most recruiters won’t even look at your cover letter, there’s no need to engage in a retelling of your entire job history. Many people think the cover letter should summarize your resume, but this simply isn’t the case. Your resume is the place for you to dive deep into your work history, so you don’t need to rehash it in your cover letter.

Instead, try and focus on a couple standout achievements from your previous jobs, then relate how those specific achievements could prove useful in the position you are applying for.

Also, try to limit your cover letter to a few paragraphs, not including the salutation or closing. Your cover letter should definitely be no more than a page, but it should also be long enough to explain why you’d make the best fit for the position.

Proofread your cover letter (for at least 2 times).

If your cover letter is read (despite the odds against it), you don’t want to have it full of misspellings and grammar errors. This indicates sloppiness and lack of attention to detail, both of which might tell the recruiter what kind of a worker you would be if hired.

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Your safest option is to have someone else review your finished cover letter for typos and errors before you send it in. You can also use a tool like the Grammarly plugin that can help catch minor mistakes.

Here’s what a good cover letter looks like:

1. Must-have Elements for Printed Cover Letter (in order)

Your contact information
Name
Address
City, State, ZIP
Phone Number
Email Address
Their contact information (if you have it)

Name
Title
Company
Address
City, State, ZIP

Salutation

  • First Paragraph – your overall objective and purpose
  • Middle Paragraph(s) – what you can offer the employer if hired. Include how your achievements relate to the position you are applying for.
  • Last Paragraph – Conclusion and thank you for their consideration

Closing – examples are Regards, Best, Cheers, Respectfully Yours, etc.

Signature – this should be handwritten

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2. Must-have Elements for an Email Cover Letter (in order)

Subject Line

Salutation

  • First Paragraph – your overall objective and purpose
  • Middle Paragraph(s) – what you can offer the employer if hired. Include how your achievements relate to the position you are applying for.
  • Last Paragraph – Conclusion and thank you for their consideration

Closing – examples are Regards, Best, Cheers, Respectfully Yours, etc.

Signature

Cover letter writing can seem daunting for many people, but understanding the right format and the must-have elements can help relieve some stress.

Reference

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Alli Hill

Freelance Writer and Marketing Consultant

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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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