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Writing the Best Cover Letter for Job Application to Land Your Dream Job

Writing the Best Cover Letter for Job Application to Land Your Dream Job

Most hiring managers are busy. Before the hiring process even begins, they are likely juggling too much. When they get to the point of being ready to bring on new talent, they must then juggle the recruitment process with their day-to-day responsibilities.

To allow the process to run as smoothly and quickly as possible, hiring managers sometimes enlist the support of a recruiter or the human resources department.

Prior to the beginning the search process, the hiring manager will share a list of attributes and desired skills they want prospective candidates to possess. The recruiter or human resources representative will then quickly narrow candidates by reviewing resumes, cover letters, referral documents, social media profiles or through screening interviews.

I have been a hiring manager for 16 years, and over the course of this time, I have reviewed thousands of cover letters. Most have been dull, but some have been captivating, inspiring me to give the candidate a closer look.

To ensure you stand out from the crowd, I recommend you these 8 tips for the best cover letter for job application to land your dream job:

1. Read the Application Guidelines

While most positions require a cover letter, some employers will explicitly tell you what they want to see in the cover letter.

For instance, some companies will ask you to document relevant experience, and some may ask you to detail how you might approach your initial 90 days with the company.

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The point is there is no such thing as a standard cover letter, so read the guidelines or application instructions thoroughly before you begin crafting your cover letter.

2. Avoid Making the Letter All About You

As much as you want and need to highlight your accomplishments, the cover letter should be a good blend of who you are and what you can offer.

You want to quickly summarize relevant experience, while also speaking to how your candidacy and employment will meet the company’s needs now and in the future.

3. Acknowledge Why You’re Interested in the Company, Not Just the Position

Everyone wants to be wanted for who they are, not what they can offer. Companies are no exception.

Culturally-aware executives want to hire people who have a genuine interest in the company’s mission, not just the vacant position.

Many companies place a higher premium on mission-alignment than they do on talent. This is key because a talented person who does not buy-in to the company’s mission and vision will ultimately become a hindrance to growth and may adversely impact the company culture.

Further, the danger of coming across as “just looking for a job” is hiring managers have no indication how long you will stay with their organization.

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Most managers want to gamble on someone who they reasonably believe will remain with their company for a minimum of a couple of years, but much longer if possible.

4. Speak to What You can Offer to the Company

The cover letters that catch my attention are the ones that speak to what a person can bring to my company.

While I am interested in candidate’s background, I am also interested in the value-add they bring to the organization. If a hiring manager wants a list of accomplishments or work history, they can scan the resume.

The cover letter should offer a broader glimpse into the candidate and what they offer the organization.

5. Mirror the Company’s Language

Prior to drafting a cover letter, go through your prospective employer’s website. Check out their press releases, annual reports, white papers and other material to get a sense of the language they use and how they talk about their work.

Once you understand or have a good sense of company vernacular, begin working on your cover letter. Mirroring the words and phrases the company uses signals that you understand the industry you are seeking to enter which is a bonus for many employers.

6. Customize Your Letter

If you are mirroring the language of the company to which you are applying, you will need to tailor or customize your cover letter.

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Customizing your letter gives it character. If you use a standard template for cover letters, the lack of effort you invest in presenting yourself to the prospective employer will show.

More serious candidates who take the time to write customized letters will undoubtedly have the upper hand.

Besides, there is nothing worse than using the same standard letter for all openings, only to mistakenly send the wrong letter to the wrong employer. The bad impression may be impossible to overcome.

7. Copy-Edit Your Letter

It is essential to copy-edit your cover letter before submitting it for a position. This is one of the easiest things to overlook, and it is one of the fastest things that will cause you to be disqualified during the screening process.

When hiring managers, interview screeners are reviewing multiple candidates, they look for quick and easy ways to narrow the applicant pool. Many will set aside a resume, cover letter or writing samples with errors on them. And they rightly should.

If you don’t exercise attention to detail in catching typos or grammatical errors when applying for a position, a hiring manager has no reason to believe you will apply diligence once employed with them.

8. Include Contact Information

Once you write a compelling cover letter, make it easy for the hiring manager or recruiter to contact you.

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In your signature, include your phone number and email address. In the event, your cover letter is separated from your resume, the recruiter will not have to go digging for how to find you.

9. Put the Letter Away for a Day or a Few Hours

Without fail, I am always surprised by how much my writing improves when I take the time to put my writing away for anywhere from several hours to a day or more.

I catch typos that I inadvertently missed during the initial review, and I find new and more succinct ways of making my point. I can cut extraneous words and phrases, which results in punchier lines and more impactful sentences.

Cover letter writing is no exception. Try to write your cover letter and put it away for a minimum of a few hours and a maximum of a couple of days. You will not regret how distance improves your copy.

The Bottom Line

While it may appear there is a lot to do prior to submitting cover letters, the bottom line is to apply as much thought and attention to detail as possible.

Doing this will place you several steps ahead of the competition positioning you to land the dream job you have always imagined.

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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Jennifer R. Farmer

An author and trainer specializes in helping socially-conscious entrepreneurs, celebrities and activists

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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