COVER LETTER: FRIEND OR FOE?
You’re about to embark on your job search, relentlessly perfecting your resume which is the first step and next up… the daunting cover letter. Mostly every application is followed by the request of providing a cover letter. When did cover letters become all the rage? Cover letters are an opportunity to show an employer how amazing you are. They need to be impressive, creative and inspiring. Even though writing a resume can definitely be challenging, it’s a pretty cut and dry summary of your experience and skills. However a cover letter is more expressive with the chance to share your story, show your charisma and convince the reader why you are the ultimate addition to the team.
First things first, in order to write a phenomenal cover letter it’s good to know what exactly it is, what it means to you and to anyone reading it. A cover letter is essentially an addendum to your resume. Resumes do not typically follow a “letter” format; they are filled with 8 point font, narrow margins, bullet points and short sentences. A cover letter is a complimentary letter to introduce yourself as a candidate before you are contacted. A general rule is for a cover letter to be about 3 paragraphs with about 3-4 sentences each. The content of a cover letter speaks to 3 details: 1) Current job in consideration 2) Applicable skills and experience and 3) Closes by inviting a personal meeting.
The following outline will guide you into writing a badass cover letter!
Compliment not Duplicate
It’s common to take the easy route and carryover information from your resume; however that’s not going to get anyone noticed! The point of a cover letter is to be unique and display something they haven’t already seen. If a hiring manager reads a resume and realizes the same information is in your cover letter, they can potentially overlook you as a candidate. Make sure to show your personality, share your contributions and enlighten details about your expertise that are not on your resume. Take the opportunity to let your achievements shine and speak to your hard work, dedication and commitment to your career and growth as a professional.
Develop A Personal Brand
No one really tells you how important branding is when crafting a resume and cover letter. The agonizing struggle of the resume is the energy put into it; refining content, repeatedly scrutinizing for grammatical errors and typos as well as perfecting the layout and font selection. The resume is the first step and the cover letter is the next piece to add to your personal branding collection. Preparing corresponding documents with the same branding says a lot about professionalism. This is now your personal brand, setting you apart by presenting your documents as a group.
The Introduction Sets The Tone
Start on the right foot with the first paragraph by grabbing attention of the reader and announcing your qualifications. Ever hear of the elevator pitch concept? It’s a model that gives career professionals a way to view how they can sell themselves to a prospected employer (or anyone for that matter) in a short elevator ride. This paragraph should be a 2-3 sentence version of your elevator pitch. Remember not to over complicate, be your fun, witty and clever self.
How to Connect
A common misconception is that a cover letter does not need contact information because you already provide it in the application and resume. So why not get rid of it altogether and free up some space to add more fluff? NOPE. Make it easy for the reviewer; keep your contact information in the header or footer that way once they are impressed with your words they have your contact info right in front of them.
Tailor to Each Position
The same position at two different companies will never have the same exact description, so why would you use the same cover letter for every application? Don’t fall for this trap, I know you want to make this as fast as possible especially if you’re applying to a few jobs a day, but this is an important step in the job hunting process. Recruiters see right through this and will write you off as candidates for that role. Customize your cover letter with your voice, sell yourself and articulate the desire for the role. Remember, the reader is looking for something that sets you apart from the others, so give it to them!
Keep It Clean
The most important part of any document personally and professionally is to proofread! Keep your cover letter up to date, clear and concise. Make sure your voice, tone and tense are all consistent throughout the entire letter. Sometimes its nice to take a break and then revisit because the eye will be trained at what its been staring at for the last few hours and may not catch all the mistakes.
A little bit of a cliché but have fun creating it! Don’t let the pressure of a cover letter get to you. Contrast to a resume, a cover letter is a platform for self-expression, personality and creativity. If when you’re finished, you don’t enjoy reading it then no one else will. Its important to let your personality shine through and speak for you. Don’t follow a boring template, make it your own and give it the #GirlBoss flair.
The one page limitation of the cover letter certainly creates an intimidating challenge. You have a short space to adequately summarize your experience and skillset but keep these guidelines in mind and you are guaranteed to write a letter that puts you to the top of the application pool.
If you need to brush up on resume tips, I’ve got you covered here!