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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 October 16, 2019

How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

Whether you saw it coming or not, getting fired is a real shock and its impact is daunting. What did you do wrong? What are you supposed to do next? When will you stop feeling so angry?

But there are ways to deal with a layoff.

The most important thing is to remain calm and see it as an opportunity to reflect, change and improve. This is a great time to consider what happened, look again at your needs and desires and start afresh on a stronger, more constructive basis.

Let’s take a look at how you can bounce back gracefully after getting fired.

1. Deal with the Shock of Getting Fired

To lose your job is to lose your identity as a worker and as a person. Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, states that 7 out of 10 of us define ourselves by our job titles, since work is where we spend the majority of our time and energy.

Being laid off affronts your sense of self-worth—it implies that you simply are not good enough. It’s no wonder you feel confused and emotional.

The first thing, then, is to take some time to digest what happened and deal with the overflow of sensations. People who quickly recover from the pain of a job loss tend to do two things very well:

First, they accept their feelings of sadness, anger, fear and shame as a part of the natural healing process.

Second, they do their complaining to a friend.

Never call out your boss in the office or on social media. It’s a bad form to speak ill of the company you work for. Stay stylish, and your employer will speak better of you when you need a reference.

2. Stay Away from the Drama Queens

Mass layoffs are, unfortunately, very common. If this is your situation, then you may be surrounded by a lot of angry people, ruminating and lamenting their fate.

“It’s not fair!” they say. “After everything we did for this company! We don’t deserve this!”

You’ve lost your job and that’s tough. But please resist the urge to join in the negativity. Positivity is by far the most important attitude to apply right now. If staying upbeat means you have to limit your exposure to the Negative Nellies, then that’s what you have to do.

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Remember, life is not harder for you than it is for other people on this planet. You live in a democracy, you have freedom of choice and you enjoy a certain material abundance.

Stay positive and focus on what’s going well in your life and the exciting future opportunities available to you. Getting fired is only a temporary setback.

Staying positing could be challenging in a difficult situation, so these tips can help:

10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

3. Take a Break and Let the Dust Settle

Instead of running straight into another job that may not be the right one either, take a short break to recover from the job loss. You need a week or two to de-stress and meditate on the next step.

Be attentive to your need for self-care during this interlude. Everything goes so fast these days that we often do not stop to think or give ourselves the permission to do a little mourning.

Getting fired is a big shock: you need time to refocus and take stock of the new reality. Do not make things harder for yourself!

What you need is to pause a while and do some self reflection:

How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

4. Be Anchored in the Present

Since you no longer have a hold on the past, but have not yet designed your future, try to build yourself up with the present. What do we mean by that?

We mean that right now is the only time you have any control over. Focus on that instead of losing yourself in memories or reliving the awful day you got fired over and over in your head.

Get up at 7 a.m. each day, whatever happens. The body needs rhythm and habits. You will feel much more energized if you keep a consistent routine. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, revisit your budget, play sports, volunteer. Take care of the practical stuff like claiming unemployment. Enjoy the small pleasures of everyday life.

When you’re busy, there’s no room for the inner critic to raise up and derail you. Keep active, and you will gain more of the precious energy you need so much to move forward.

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Try these things to help you live in the moment:

34 Ways To Live in the Moment And Grow in the Moment

5. Understand the “Why”

There are lots of reasons why people are fired. Sometimes the mistake is yours and it’s embarrassing to admit you backed yourself into this corner.

Other times, it’s not your fault. Businesses change direction all the time—maybe yours is going through a major transition or merger and your job is disappearing.

Either way, to give the situation some closure, you need to understand why you were dismissed. What slipped? What could you have done differently? Was your boss really out to get you or did you do something to put your job in jeopardy?

Be honest with yourself. It’s not easy to admit that you might have dropped the ball but it’s the only way to turn the situation into a learning experience. Ask yourself:

What skills do you need to improve?

Is there training you can access, or learning you can do?

In the end, did this job suit you that much? Were you happy there?

Reflecting on these questions can help you put things into perspective. What lessons can you learn to avoid reproducing the same pattern in your next job?

6. Find out If You Were the Right Fit

Hiring decisions ultimately come down to personality. You can study for an interview all you like, but every candidate who is chosen for interview has the right credentials for the job.

The final decision comes down to personality. Who does the recruiter like the best? Who is a better fit for the company culture? That’s the person who strikes it lucky.

Firing decisions are based on personality, too. Slacking off, insubordination and playing fast and loose with the company rules—these are the official reasons why people are getting fired.

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But all of these reasons boil down to one thing: personality. Specifically, they signal a personality clash between an employee and a manager, or an employee’s fit with the company’s culture.

Here’s an example:

Suppose you were fired for “not being a team player.” Some people, namely introverts, lose energy when they are surrounded by other people and gain energy when they are on their own. Forcing an introvert to continuously work on a busy, noisy team without any solitary rest periods means the job is a mission impossible. This employee will never perform at her best.

Or how about the time the Kansas City Star newspaper fired Walt Disney for a perceived lack of imagination? Talk about a clash of personalities![1]

Getting fired can be a signal to turn inward and do some self-reflection so you can better understand your personality and how it might fit in with corporate culture.

In particular, personality assessments based on Isabel Briggs Myers’ sixteen personality types can help you to understand your own work style and how you can find a job and workplace that better match who you truly are.

In many cases, it is totally liberating to realize that all the crap you had to deal with was just down to a clash of work styles and not something you did wrong!

7. Rediscover Your Strengths and Talents

A personality test can also give you clear insights into your strengths, weaknesses, motivations and work potential. Do you have leadership abilities? How do you communicate and manage conflict? What benefits do you add to an organization?

Identifying your working style should be your top priority right now, otherwise you risk accepting a new position that has all the same problems as before. The last thing you want is to reproduce the same old dramas the next time around.

When you become aware of your potential, you will have the confidence to search and find the type of work you love.

For example, getting fired from your banking job may have knocked you sideways. But you have some stellar home decorating skills, and a personality test shows that you are curious, flexible, rational and resilient—all the traits of successful entrepreneurs. Maybe this dismissal is an opportunity to launch the business you’ve always dreamed of but never dared to admit to yourself?

By considering all your special skills and talents, you increase your chances of finding a job you would really enjoy, and not just the one you can do.

8. Get the Word Out

At this point, you should be ready to take action and move forward with your job search. Let’s not sugarcoat the situation: getting a new job is tough. It helps to have a clear idea of the direction you want to go in, a list of all your crossover skills and a freshly polished resume.

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Look around for inspiration. Talk to recruiters in your sector to establish what they consider to be your most valuable skills. Use all the resources at your disposal: job search agencies, headhunters, work coaches, careers websites and so on. These resources can help you match your qualifications to the job requirements and ensure you have the right keywords on your resume.

Don’t hold back on marshaling your networks. Put friends and family to work to pop up leads, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Sometimes the simple act of getting the word out to the people who know you is the surest way to find work fast.

9. Anticipate Questions and Know How to Answer Them

Even if it wasn’t your fault, getting fired can hurt you if you don’t know how to explain why you were let go. You have to be honest here and tell recruiters the truth. Even if a would-be employer does not specifically ask why you left your previous job, it is better to clarify the situation upfront before it comes out in your references.

The best approach is to take your share of responsibility and show that you want to go forward and that you understand the lesson.

For example, suppose you got fired for asking the difficult questions that no one wanted to answer and your candidness set people on edge. Acknowledge that some people perceive your communication style as abrupt and explain how you’re taking steps to increase your diplomacy skills.

A recruiter can be seduced by someone who knows how to evolve and who shows a great energy for personal development.

10. Adapt and Persist

Throughout this journey, you inevitably will go through moments of self-doubt and disappointment. There are undulations in every road, and these are the normal steps for regaining self-confidence after getting fired.

Stay tough! Don’t conclude that your future is hopeless just because the dream job doesn’t land straightaway. You open a positive path when you maintain focus. Have the confidence to know that the perfect job for you is out there.

Remember, you are not alone. Many people walked this road and they would urge you to keep the momentum. Stay open-minded and go where the opportunities take you: it will bring you closer to the job you really want.

Coming Out on Top

While getting fired isn’t the ideal situation, it isn’t the end of the world either. Even if feels like a doozy right now, you will get through it and emerge happier on the other side.

Be clear on what you want, have courage and believe in yourself. In the end, you may decide that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to you. It can be the catalyst for a powerful, career-fulfilling change.

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Featured photo credit: Jesus Kiteque via unsplash.com

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