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To Nail the Job You Want, Stop Selling Yourself in Your Cover Letter

To Nail the Job You Want, Stop Selling Yourself in Your Cover Letter

Writing a good cover letter can be one of the most difficult parts of the job application process. You may know how to structure your CV correctly, but the most efficient way of writing a cover letter can remain a mystery. We may struggle to know what exactly to cover, and what to ignore, and how to best relay this information to prospective employers.

There are hundreds of guides and templates online designed to help you craft a great cover letter. On the surface, these guides are incredibly convenient and useful. However, due to their popularity, they have the effect of making everyone’s cover letters read more or less the same. As such it can be difficult to get your cover letter noticed.

The solution? Do things differently.

There’re 4 basic rules for a good cover letter.

A great cover letter should do four things:[1]

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  1. Introduce yourself and your skills to the hiring manager.
  2. Explain to the hiring manager why you are best suited for the job. This is done by detailing your skills and experiences and relating them to the job in question.
  3. Provided extra detail to your resume, and clarifying certain details.
  4. Explain in detail the most relevant information of your resume.

If your cover letter does these four things, you are off to a fantastic start.

But for a decent cover letter, there is more to consider…

All the information in the cover letter should be accurate and relevant to the job in question.

Many people just send the same cover letter to different companies and different jobs. This is a deadly mistake, you should assume this will be noticed, so tailor each cover letter for each job.[2]

Allow no mistakes in the cover letter.

Once you are happy with your cover letter, you need to spend a lot of time proof reading it to correct any mistakes in spelling or grammar…then proof read it again. Assume any mistakes you make will be seen and will reflect badly on you. It might help to have a trusted friend go over your cover letter as well as sometimes it can be difficult to see mistakes in your own work.

Also, consider if your cover letter is formatted correctly. Your cover letter should be formatted and structured like a letter, include contact information at the top, and address the recruiter directly by name.

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Address the hiring manager by name, make it personal.

If you are lucky the name of the hiring manager should be in the job description. If not, you may have to spend some time researching, try Linkedin, as this will give you key information on the staff of a company.

Using the name subtly creates a connection between you and the hiring manager, and as such they will notice it. Think about it, if you were going through a stack of cover letters, will you pay attention to the one that addressed you directly, or one of the (likely many) cover letters addressed to “whom it might concern”?

So far we have covered what makes a decent cover letter.

We know you don’t want just a decent cover letter, so here’s how to go pro.

1. Follow the inverted pyramid structure when writing your cover letters[3].

With the inverted pyramid structure,[4] you should place the most important, relevant information right at the top.

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Having the most important information at the top ensures that it is the first thing the recruiter sees. As the recruiter usually has to deal with many cover letters a day, its possible that they won’t be able to spend much time on each cover letter, and as such, they may only give your cover letter a quick read, some information may be missed. In this case it is vital to bring the most important information in your cover letter to the front.

2. It’s important to tell the company why you want to work for them.

Consider what values the company seem to have, perhaps they have a long and interesting history. Imagine that you want to be friends with the company. If you merely tell them all about yourself then they may become disinterested, at worse think you self obsessed. Essentially you can’t make them thing you are only applying so you can earn money or benefits.

3. Also, show your passion and enthusiasm for the company.

When writing your cover letter you should consider using emotive words like “love”, for example “I would love the chance to work for this company” this will give them the impression that to you, working for the company will not just be another job for you but something you genuinely desire. Loyalty, knowledge, and passion are all very important traits that employers look for.

4. Choose a few attributes from the job description and focus on them.

Cover letters shouldn’t be very long, so if you try to cover every single part of their job description then your cover letter will be overly long. Less is more.

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5. Always hit on the emotional side of the reader.

They are probably having a hard time going through all the cover letters and applications, so it could be useful for you to be sympathetic to that.[5] Show them how kind you can be by perhaps wishing them good luck on the job search and wish them all the best.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

[1] Resume Genius: How to Write a Cover Letter & 40+ Free Templates
[2] Monster: Cover letter basics
[3] Scott Berkun: How To Write A Good Bio
[4] Purdue Online Writing Lab: The Inverted Pyramid Structure
[5] Careercake via YouTube: 5 Steps to an Incredible Cover Letter

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Arthur Peirce

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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