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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
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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 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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