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

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

[1] Undercover Recruiter: How Long Do Recruiters Spend Reading Your CV?

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Alli Hill

Lifestyle Writer and Marketing Consultant

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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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 Creating 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

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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