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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 December 9, 2019

How to Set Goals Smartly to Accomplish More in Life

How to Set Goals Smartly to Accomplish More in Life

We all know setting goals is the best way to give your life focus and direction. But did you know that by setting goals, it can also help you to get a lot more of your important work done?

Having clear and effective goals that are built around your values focuses your mind on what is important. It helps you filter out the unnecessary and gives you an ‘outcome mindset’ rather than a ‘task mindset’.

An outcome mindset is one where you are focused on the objective—the outcome— of what you are intending to achieve. A task mindset focuses on the tasks you have to do each day and this leads to completing unnecessary tasks (or spending too much time on the unimportant) and procrastination.

To help you with transforming yourself from being focused on the tasks and to be focused on the outcome, here are 17 ways having clear goals will not only increase your productivity but also supercharge your ability to get the important things done:

1. Make it a goal to have no more than 10 tasks on your to-do list each day.

One of the surprising benefits of having a small number of goals for the day is how frequently you find yourself accomplishing more.

When you have a random number of tasks to complete each day, the likelihood is you will not get them all done.

When you set yourself a small number of tasks to complete—your “must completes” for the day—and you restrict these to a set number, you are much more likely to get them done.

2. Decide what your monthly and weekly goals are.

What do you want to accomplish this month? What do you want to accomplish this week? These questions focus you in on the things that are important to you.

Most people are waiting for life to happen to them, after all, it is far easier to react to events around you than to create events around you.

When you create the events in your life by having weekly and monthly goals that reflect your objectives for the year, you are going to get far more of your important work done.

3. Work on what’s important to you and focus on your priorities

Building your daily life around your goals is going to keep you on the path you want to follow.

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Without any goals directing you towards where you want to go, you will find yourself drifting off your desired path and aimlessly wandering through life, wondering how you got to where you are. More often than not, where you end up will not be where you want to be.

4. Eliminate the unimportant tasks that come up each day

Every day throws up a lot of unexpected issues. These issues often come from our bosses, clients/customers and friends and family. It does not matter how well planned your day is, these things are going to happen.

When you have a set number of goals to achieve each day, these issues will not hijack your day and destroy it. You will find you can handle the unexpected while continuing to get on with your important work for the day.

5. Always stay focused

When you set goals, it means you have made a decision about what it is you want to achieve and what is important to you. This allows you to become a much more focused person because you are mindful of what you want.

Focus, in today’s world, is a skill in short supply. By developing your focus, you are going to put yourself way ahead of everyone else.

6. Begin the day with a goal

One of the best ways to accomplish more of your important tasks each day is to begin the day with a clear goal.

It could be to complete a specific project or to simply get outside and walk for thirty minutes in nature.

When you start the day with a specific goal to do something, you are much more likely to get it done.

7. Start small

If you have never had an outcome-orientated mindset, then begin will small steps.

A simple goal to have each day, and a very healthy one, is to go for a thirty-minute walk.

Another simple goal to set for the day is to choose one piece of work that you will complete that day, then focus all your attention on getting that work completed before you finish for the day.

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These pieces of completed work add up over time, and you’ll find that you are getting far more done than you ever did before.

8. Ask yourself: What one thing you could do today that would have the biggest positive impact on your day?

This is a great way to accomplish even the hardest of goals.

Asking yourself this question really helps you discover what projects and work are important. This question is not focused on completing the goal. This question is all about making progress on the goal.

Once you have completed that task, you will find the next step happens naturally. Before you know it, you have made a huge impact on your goal.

9. Consistently take small steps which lead to great distances

One of the biggest reasons why most people never achieve their goals is their goals seem impossible because of the time and effort required to achieve them.

The best way to make even the most difficult goals achievable is to break them down into small manageable steps. Even the smallest step moves you forward towards achieving the goal.

Just two or three little steps completed every day will, over time, take you towards where you want to be.

Want to write a book? Writing 500 words per day will give you a 60,000-word manuscript in around ten months.

10. Plan what you are going to achieve the day before with the 2+8 Prioritization System

This one always works. Before you finish your day’s work, take ten minutes or so and decide what two things you will achieve the next day. This is what I call my “two objectives”.

Once you have decided on your objectives, write down eight other tasks you want to complete the next day. These tasks I call my “focus tasks”.

You then make sure that whatever gets thrown at you the next day, you will complete these ten tasks.

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Over a period of one month, you will have achieved around 300 meaningful tasks all related to your goals and important work.[1]

11. Know what your majors and minors are

This one is the secret of all highly successful people. They know what work has the most impact on their life and business and what work does not.

For example, checking emails, while necessary, is not a major task. It does not move you forward in any meaningful way. Talking to your most important customer and reinforcing your strong relationship with them, that’s a major.

One of the best examples I’ve heard comes from Brian Tracy. In his example, Brian says a salesperson doing work in the office is doing minor work. A salesperson talking with a customer is doing major work.

Focus all your time and energies on your major work and reduce the time you spend on your minor work.

12. Add positive pressure to get more done

When you have goals, you feel obligated to do something about them. When you do not have a goal, you are much more likely to procrastinate and spend unproductive time thinking about what to do next.

Goals give you clarity, goals give you purpose and when you have both clarity and purpose, you find you no longer procrastinate and you utilize your time much more effectively.

13. Have specific, clear goals to incentivise you to move forward.

How you write the action steps related to your goals is important. If you have a goal that says “make an online course,” you will not achieve very much.

Writing your action steps out such as “make progress on the online course outline” or “make five slides for online course” is specific and is going to lead to action and achievement.

14. Make progress that drives more progress

When you see you are making progress on your goals every day, you will find you begin getting much more done.

Momentum is created once you start and when momentum begins you find positive habits develop. Put momentum and motive together and you have the ingredients for massive progress towards your goals and your work.

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15. Take up accountability

Something amazing happens to our brains when we set ourselves goals. Having goals we are very clear about and determined to achieve gives our brains the necessary incentive to focus on getting the goal achieved.

We have accountability to ourselves. That accountability gives us all the incentive we need to get the work done every day.

16. Use the power of Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

When you have set goals to achieve each day and you begin the day with a review of what you want to get completed, Parkinson’s Law will take over.

This means no matter what else gets thrown at you throughout the day, if you have set yourself a time, you will finish your work for the day, you will find you will finish what you have planned for the day at that time. This one works brilliantly.

17. Become a highly focused, goal achieving individual

Having goals you are focused on each day develops a ‘can do’ mindset. When you have a strong ‘can do’ mindset and the discipline to focus on what you want to get accomplished each day, you find work you previously thought would take weeks and months to complete soon start being completed within hours or days.

A great mindset and a strong work ethic, coupled with daily goals will make some very positive changes in your life.

These 17 tips are just the start. When you begin focusing your daily activities on your goals instead of on your tasks, you will see an incredible transformation take place in your life.

Your energy increases, you feel happier more often and you start to feel you are making progress on the things that are important to you which just leads to accomplishing more and more.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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