This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.
Don't Be Shy on Your Cover Letter:
Secret Tips to Get a Job
Rocking Your Cover Letter with the Right Content/Balance
A lot of people in the resume writing and recruitment industries counsel applicants not to write cover letters.
Their reasoning? They just aren’t read anymore. Really? Do you want to take that risk?
Even if some hiring managers don’t read cover letters, you have lost nothing by crafting a great one – it may be the one document that recruiters or hiring managers see that engages them and incites interest in you.
Whatever you do, include a cover letter. It should be relatively short, but it should be there.
What a Cover Letter Says About You
Resumes are designed to provide a potential employer with a look into your professional story – employment background and experience, education and training, skill sets and accomplishments.
Every applicant has one, and most, quite frankly, look and “sound” the same. There’s not much “reading between the lines” within these documents.
Cover letters, on the other hand, say several things:
1. They show you have taken more time and put in more effort.
Again, even though some do not read cover letters, others do and, in fact, find them an important introduction to who you are, not just what you have done. If that cover letter shows that you have also taken the time to do some research about the organization and can mention some key points, all the better. The “between the lines” statement is that you have gone “above and beyond”, and perhaps that is part of who you are on the job too. What you don’t want to do is use the cover letter to just repeat what is going to be in that resume. Find something unique and different that relates to the organization and its needs.
2. It demonstrates your writing skill.
Resumes are full of phrases. The cover letter, on the other hand, is fashioned in complete sentences and is your chance to prove that you have a good command of the English language and can construct a letter with paragraphs, transitions, and solid sentence structures. None of this can be gleaned from a resume. And writing skills are valuable in any job. If you have any concerns about your writing skills, contact a professional cover letter writer who can either craft those letters, or review and edit those you write.
3. Cover letters reveal more of who you are as a person.
Resumes are polished pieces that have been fine-tuned. Cover letters can speak to the specific position for which you are applying and to the value you can bring to the organization, based upon its mission, goals, and needs.
4. Cover letters let you explain important things
Why do you want this job? Not what’s in it for you necessarily, but what has attracted you to this specific position or to this specific sector? You can also explain a gap in employment that will obviously show up on your resume if it is important for you to do so. You can address any “red flag” that may show up in your resume and “head it off”.
Don’t Be Boring or Self-Absorbed
We’ve all had this experience. We meet someone, perhaps at a social gathering, strike up a conversation and spend 20-30 minutes listening to that person talk about themselves.
This is not someone we want to spend any time with in the future. They are self-absorbed. And they become boring pretty quickly.
There is the same danger in cover letters. You have to guard against the tendency to focus on “me” and “I” and take the time to focus on the company or organization.
Here is how you can avoid this.
Every cover letter should result from some solid research on the company/organization.
Keep digging until you can find something that will relate to the position for which you are applying and/or your skill set or background. This will be something to include in your cover letter that focuses on the company rather than on you.
At the same time, it will point to value that you can bring to the company, not the value you may gain by getting the job.
Reduce the “I” and “me” words.
Of course, you will have to use them sometimes, but see how you can re-arrange sentences to eliminate some of them. Again, focus on what the company needs and/or is looking for.
Use someone else’s words to describe yourself.
If a colleague or a supervisor had great praise for you, quote them. This is a relatively new trend on LinkedIn – someone “singing your praises” on your profile page. You can reference that quote in your cover letter.
Don’t Be Shy; Don’t be Boastful
You have to find the right balance between “tooting your own horn” and tooting it so loudly that it is a turn-off. Here are two examples – one bad, one good.
BAD: “I am particularly interested in this position because you are looking to expand into European markets, and my past experience qualifies me as a premier expert in such an expansion. I may indeed know more about this than anyone in your organization.”
GOOD: “I have a keen interest in this position because it involves expansion into European markets, and this has been an area in which I have had success in the past.”
Be Assertive; Don’t Be Aggressive
You can present your “fit” for the position in an assertive way, or you can turn someone off being too aggressive.
BAD: “The skill set you have identified is one that I mastered long ago, which makes me a perfect fit for your opening.”
GOOD: “The skill set you have identified is one that I have been developing over many years and continue to develop today. There is always more to learn.”
Be Less Formal
Resumes are very formal documents and devoid of personality.
You should allow a bit of your personality to come through in the cover letter, and you can do this by being less formal and yet still use a writing style that reflects good grammar and composition.
A Final Note
A job search is never easy.
Resumes have to be designed and tweaked for each position; there is stress when the interviews don’t come. One of the things that can give you a “leg-up” on the competition, however, is that cover letter.
Heed the advice here, and you may just be one of those chosen for that interview.
Remember that your cover letter can be a great prelude to who you really are and what value you can bring to the organization. Your cover letter serves as the opening act for your resume. In today's economy, a well-written cover letter targeting the employer's specific needs can help vault you above a larger-than-normal field of competitors. To grab the hiring manager's attention, keep your cover letter focused on the company.
About the Author
Nelma Lumme was born in Tampere, Finland in 1990. After her graduation from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Tampere, she moved to Chicago, IL where she used to work as HR manager.
Now she is starting a new career as a freelance blogger, writing mostly about education, self-improvement, and psychology.