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21 Cover Letter Tips to Hook The Attention of Employers

21 Cover Letter Tips to Hook The Attention of Employers

Writing cover letters can be tricky and challenging for even experienced professionals looking to make their next career move.

There are differing opinions on a what a cover letter should include to make a good first impression on hiring managers. But do not worry because this article is all about how to make sure your cover letter hooks the attention of employers.

But first, how important is a cover letter?

There’s a lot of debate around cover letters, the most important thing about cover letters is getting a potential employer to see why you are the best fit for the position.

Another reason cover letters are beginning to make a comeback is the search for employees who can communicate effectively through writing, which creates a positive impression throughout the hiring process.

Without further ado, here are 21 cover letter tips to hook the attention of employers:

1. Make sure your resume stands out first

After speaking to several recruiters and engaging in job forums, I have come to understand that although your cover letter tends to be the X factor that decides whether you get hired or not, it might not be the most important document…initially.

Yes, your resume gets reviewed first.

You only have 3-6 seconds to try to hook the attention of employers. When a hiring manager scans your resume and doesn’t find it interesting, it goes to the ‘ignore’ pile before he or she will ever get to your cover letter to see what makes you stand out.

So, this actually debunks the myth that the cover letter is a crutch for weak resumes.

Spend as much time on your resume as you do on your cover letter to present a very strong application.

If you want some practical tips on resume, check out this article:

How You Can Write an Appealing Resume

2. Keep it simple and to the point

Verbosity and flowery prose will not help make your application stand out. Instead, it might harm your chances of employment because you come across as pretentious.

For example, you don’t have to use the word “utilize” when you can simply say “use.” Instead of saying “In my humble opinion, mobile apps…”, dive into your argument by stating what you believe in “I believe that mobile apps…”

Being straightforward with your communication also displays how simple you are at summarizing important details without being wordy.

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3. Use simple formatting

Stick to Times New Romans font in size 12. Anything other than that is seen as too fancy and non-official.

Whether you double-space your letter is optional but you want to make sure that your paragraphs are skimable and not too long.

Also, adding “boxes” and “frames” should be avoided because you could lose your formatting after submission, which might skew the entire document.

4. Get rid of misspellings and grammatical mistakes

Because your resume and cover letter is the very first impression of your competency and professionalism, it is imperative to pay extra attention to your syntaxes and conjunctions.

Your cover letter isn’t the place to display creative flair by using slangs, inappropriate words or contractions.

Here are common mistakes being made today regardless of academic level or professionalism:

  • Saying “your” instead of “you’re.”
  • Saying “their” instead of “there.”
  • Saying “being” instead of “been.”

5. Explain employment gaps or career changes

There are several reasons for making sudden career changes which might veer from from the standard path your academic degree usually takes you––and that’s okay. It doesn’t disqualify you from the application process, rather, it makes you unique. You just need to highlight how special your case is.

If you have experienced any situation that could be disadvantageous to your application, something that isn’t easily explained my bullet points on your resume, the cover letter is the best place to provide an explanation for it.

Situations like taking time off to raise your children, getting deployed to another country in an act of service, etc, come to mind.

But that’s not all. What if your application going to change the course of your career?

For example, you might be trying to get into the marketing world when you have been a healthcare professional for most of your career. Try explaining the reason for this change, talk about your past, your present and most importantly, how you intend to parlay your successes and traits into your marketing role.

6. Tailor your cover letter to a specific job or interest

Employers love applicants who are willing to go the extra mile to personalize their cover letters, which is already a rarity in today’s marketplace.

Sending merge emails or cover letters to employers shows a sign of disinterest and quite frankly, laziness.

For instance, don’t just send a cover letter to the accounting department; respond to the posting about the need for a payroll specialist.

7. Have a cover letter template ready

Sometimes, it helps to have a plan in place before responding to job postings. One of the ways to do that is by having a template that you can always customize to each opportunity whenever you want.

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Templates simplify the process of getting things done and would cut your time in half so that you can pay attention to other details.

A very solid cover letter would have 3 parts: an introduction, the body, and a conclusion. You don’t need to get fancier than that.

8. Always follow instructions

One of the biggest reasons for failing to get to the interview stage is lack of attention to detail. And as a result of this, majority of applicants do not receive any call backs.

If a job posting calls for cover letters in PDF attachments or in the body of your email, do just that.

Failure to follow instructions might be seen as a sign of insubordination by prospective employers who can only judge you through a computer screen.

9. Avoid generic salutations

It’s very tempting to use “Dear sir/ma” or “to whom this may concern.” However, I would advise you to refrain from this.

First, you could totally guess the gender of your hiring manager wrongly. Secondly, it is simply not in good taste because it sounds lazy.

Instead, you can always go with “Dear hiring manager” or “Dear XYZ team” which is gender neutral.

10. Research the company you’re applying to

Another alternative is to conduct a research to know who is specifically in charge of handling applications. This way, you can address that person personally in your cover letter.

Also, know the company you’re applying to and what your position entails. For example, a little homework is needed to know if a marketing company will require you to go from door-to-door to sell company wares.

Make your cover letter stand out even more by highlighting something you have in common with the hiring manager. Are you acquainted with someone from a different department? Did you previously complete an internship with the organization? Did you and your hiring manager graduate from the same alma mater?

It’s simple. Do your research.

11. Avoid bad-mouthing your previous employers

Your cover letter is not a place to spill dramatic events that led to your departure from your previous job.

If you are looking to hook the attention of potential employers, you want to come across as someone trustworthy and reliable.

12. Avoid rehashing your resume.

Don’t regurgitate what you wrote in your resume just to “take up space.” Make every word in your cover letter earn its place and that means not re-creating your resume in prose form. The cover letter is not the place for that.

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13. Do share powerful personal stories that support your application

In everything you do, don’t forget that you have a personal brand. Yes, you are a brand. You are a solution and an asset to your employer.

As much as you’re attracted to the companies you apply to, employers want to be attracted to you too.

So, do you have powerful personal stories that can support your application? Have you done something majority of people in your shoes can never dream of and have learned valuable lessons from it? Share this in your cover letter.

For instance, in an application to a telemetry unit, a nursing student could share how scared and inspired she was by the teamwork she witnessed during a resuscitation of an unconscious patient when a code blue was activated.

The list is endless but it all starts by taking note of your daily reflections and highlighting stories worth sharing.

14. Discuss numeric results with emotion

It is rare to see applicants who possess and can blend both hard and soft skills while communicating. Imagine how many wonders this would do for you if you can convey this through written form.

Knock your application out of the pack back by learning how to connect statistics to people. Don’t just talk about percentages and how much money you have made your previous employer; talk about how many lives have been improved simply by designing more effective products in the marketplace.

15. Show how your values align

It’s not just about your skills, accolades or the academic institution you attended. Employers want to know that they’re bringing on someone who can be the face of the company, and someone they can always rely on.

16. Address a challenge your employer is currently facing

If you are in a creative or visual field, this might sound very interesting and doable to you.

Employers love applicants who take initiative to solve problems before they become disasters. Tacking on a current challenge shows that you are familiar with the organization’s mode of operation and are already invested in its outcome.

However, be careful to stay away from controversial topics (unless that is exactly what is required of you).

17. Talk about your failures too

There is nothing more humanizing and endearing than reading about a perceived “fall from grace” from experts we love and admire. You too, can glean from this strategy––but with a caveat.

After failing, what happened next? Was there a comeback?

For instance, if you ran a side hustle while in college but had to quit due to lack of finances, it might not necessarily be seen as a complete failure. You have learned what most employees haven’t gotten the chance to do yet: better time management, delegation, managing others and providing excellent customer service.

18. Tell them how you learned about the opportunity

Put your networking experience to good use by leading with that upfront in your cover letter. Keep track of your personal and professional connections, and don’t be afraid to use them in your job search.

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Doing this adds another layer of personal touch to your application––as long as it is done in good taste. You don’t want to come across as too pushy.

Here’s an example:

We met yesterday at the open house of the newly constructed Hubbs Center- I believe it’s an annex, where we talked at length on varying topics. What an amazing experience! It was nice meeting you, learning about what you do, and how I could somehow be a part of that.

19. Don’t just share; ask for the job

While you’re convincing the hiring manager that you’re the best person for the job by sharing your experiences, values and so on, don’t forget one crucial thing: ask for the job.

Yes, you need to ask for the job. The whole pitch isn’t complete without you finally asking to be interviewed

20. Thank the recruiter for taking the time to review your cover letter

Whether cover letters are dead or not, it takes an actual human to read one and respond to one. So, always remember to say thank you!

21. Always include your contact information

At the end of the day, you want to get hired and be informed that you got the job. One way to do that is to actually leave an email address and a phone number you can be reached at. It does you a huge disservice to do amazingly well on your cover letter only to end on a low note.

A simple way to fix this is to use the same name/address header on your resume on your cover letter so that you can keep things consistent every step of the way.

The verdict on cover letters

Some hiring managers read them and some do not. While it may not be the most popular piece of document submitted on job portals, it just might be the one that gets your hired.

Therefore, it pays to know how to write a great one.

If you want more suggestions on how to nail your cover letter, Lifehack’s Chief of Product Management has some bonus tips for you:

I’ve Read More Than 500 Cover Letters and Here’s What I’ve Spotted

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Margaret Olatunbosun

Creative coach who teaches high-achievers how to thrive at the intersection of creativity, passion, and profit.

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Last Updated on August 10, 2020

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life. Hope leads to a sense of expectancy Combine this with setting short-term goals, and the likelihood of being more happy and successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short-term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short-term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

Short-term goals are ‘short’, meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes, a day, or as long as a week or a few months. Well-formed short-term goals begin with the end in mind.

Quick tip:

Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen. Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short-term goal is the smallest step you need for you to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire‘ is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.[1]

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short-term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence, and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

The Benefits of Setting Short-Term Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short-term goals, it will have a ripple effect across all your life domains.

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  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity also shifts.
  • Improve your body shape through managing food intake and your energy improves in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude changes around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement lifts.

6 Steps to Success With Short-Term Goals

Setting short-term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but can you achieve that?

Take the following steps and you will start achieving your dreams:[2]

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

For example:

  • What are your best hopes for your finances?
  • What are your best hopes for your relationship?
  • What are your best hopes for your career?
  • What are your best hopes for your health?

This process involves ‘chunking up’ your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you but also the changes in your behavior and mindset as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

‘Noticing’ helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more ‘real’ your preferred future becomes.

Step 3: Ask: ‘What Else?’

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive about it and protective of it. But if we dig and resurface the truth, then weight can be lifted, allowing you the freedom to move forward.

Step 4: Ask: ‘Who Will Notice the Difference?’

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and your partner are important. Seeing the change they’ll notice helps put another perspective on the differences they see in you.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving this goal.

Step 5: Imagine a Miracle Happened Tonight

Imagine that if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened; and you were the very best version of yourself and that you had achieved your best hopes.

When you woke up tomorrow morning after the miracle happened, what would you notice that would tell you you’ve achieved the change you’re seeking?

Step 6: Describe Your Day as If the Miracle Had Happened

Go through your day, moment by moment. Begin with what time you would wake up and then describe the differences you would notice in every tiny action you do.

Notice in detail what’s different about this day – a day when you are at your very best because you’re living your best hopes.

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How to Track Your Short Term Goals Success

When you set a short-term goal, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[3]

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short-term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 kilos by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart either in your diary or somewhere visible and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short-term goal. It won’t be long before your goal of losing 5 kilos is met.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set a well-formed short-term goal.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide).

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself move towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

And you’ll be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing your confidence, motivation, and positive changes to your brain to succeed.

Here’re more reasons why you should get yourself a life coach: 7 Reasons Why You Should Find a Life Coach to Reach Your Full Potential.

4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and then ‘step into’ your day.

Short-Term Goal Example: A Career Short-Term Goal

How to advance your career with short-term goals? Specifically, you will need short-term goals to help with your career. This is also how many people want to utilize short-term goals.

Start by Planning Your Career Visually

Walt Disney was sacked for lacking imagination. Oprah Winfrey was told she’d never make it on television. Careers are destroyed by naysayers intent on keeping you small. The successful person designs a career goal and then creates incremental steps to ‘ladder up’ with short-term goals.

Justin Dry from VinoMofo, a successful Australian wine distribution company, always begins his goal-setting process with visual planning. He says,

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I need to see it all in front of me like a puzzle I’m putting together. It kind of looks like the workings of a madman with lots of weird and wonderful shapes and lines connecting the words.

Whether you use masses of post-it notes that cover a wall, large sheets of paper to spread your ideas on or a journal to map your path – messy planning gets your ideas out of your head so you see different possibilities and pathways available to you.

Begin this process by asking, “What are my best hopes for my career?”

Write them down and place them somewhere you’ll notice them every day.

Make You Think Like a Start-Up Entrepreneur

While successful career planning starts with a messy and random process to let those ‘idea gems’ – the embryos of well-formed short-term goals rise, the next step is taking these nuggets and using them to set your direction.

Think of yourself (and your career) as if you’re the CEO of your successful start-up – one with a clear vision of what you want and how you’ll get it. Rather than waiting for a boss to give you goals, be proactive, and set your own.

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot says,

Set a vision, and be focused on the intent of these goals. Create actions which not only build on those of yesterday but also improve what you do tomorrow. Your pathways will need to be flexible, challenged, and accountable.

Begin by listing the bigger steps needed to achieve your goal. Then chunk these down into smaller steps with specific actions needed to achieve them. These action steps are the workhorses of your short-term goals.

Create a specific time frame to complete them and maintain accountability – as if you’re reporting to your ‘higher up’.

Begin this process by asking yourself: “What difference will I notice when I take these steps?” Then ask: “What difference will my boss/es notice when I take these steps?”

Establish ‘Triggers’ for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941) legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.[4]

To do this list, create a trigger point – the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your ritual of ‘getting in the cab’?

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Get You to Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for ‘frequently talking about the future’.

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.
  • Whisper them to yourself throughout your day.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy, which continue fueling not only your desire but also the expectation of achieving it.

Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with ‘hope’, you activate a sense of ‘expectancy’. A belief that what you want is not only possible, it’s within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re ‘moving forward‘ with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When ‘moving away from‘ something you perceive as painful you’re activating ‘fear’, which can also be a strong motivator helping you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Sarah, a manager at a busy merchandising company saw her doctor because she was feeling tired. After a thorough examination, the doctor advised Sarah to lose 15 kilos as this was contributing to her tiredness. The news felt overwhelming as Sarah worked long hours and rarely found time to shop for fresh food, so she relied on fast food to keep her going.

For Sarah, the doctor activated her fear by describing what could happen (heart attack and/or diabetes) if she didn’t manage her weight by shedding 15 kilos.

While ‘moving away from’ motivation can be successful, a way of amplifying positive motivators that will see Sarah begin ‘moving towards’ her goal is by talking about what outcomes Sarah would notice by losing 15 kilos.

For example, managing her weight may see Sarah being more efficient at work, getting out more socially, or feeling more able to manage work pressures and deadlines.

To do this with your own goal setting, think about what’s important to you about achieving your goals. Write down your answers. Ask: “What will you notice that will be different in your life when these changes happen?”

Summing It Up

Change is possible. Short-term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by ‘passionate desire’ so you achieve your desired outcomes.

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

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