April 19, 2017

Graduation is coming – The dreaded Cover Letter

The most challenging part of finding a new role isn’t the interview or the resume.  It’s creating the Cover Letter.  Not anymore.

Raise your hand if you love writing Cover Letters.  Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Raise your hand if you think Cover Letters are still used by Recruiters and Hiring Managers? A couple of you?

Raising your hand if you’d love tips on writing a better Cover Letter, especially those who’ve never written one in the past? Hopefully all your hands are raised by now!

I’ve found that professionals roll their eyes (or start to panic) the instant I mention the term “Cover Letter.”  Most folks ask, “Do companies even use them anymore?” or “Do I have to make it all about me?” or my favorite, “Do I have to?”  The answer to all of the above is YES!

Cover Letters don’t have to give you nightmares anymore.  If you’re writing your first one or need some guidance writing your 100th, here’s how I think you should approach this key document:

Use a template, but don’t go too boring: Most Cover Letter templates you’ll find on Google are boring, out-of-date, and super formal.  Use a template that utilizes white space, uses bullets, and tells the reader what you want in a shorter, more compelling way.  Cover Letters should be visually appealing and a quick (2 min) read.  As a Hiring Manager, just LOOKING at a 6 paragraph, single spaced Cover Letter made my eyes cross.  Don’t go there.

Have a connection to the reader:  Whatever you do, don’t start with “Dear Human Resources Representative.”  You want to have a connection to the intended reader.  Even if it’s something like “Joe Smith from Accounting thought I would make a good fit…” or “One of your colleagues, Lisa Jones, recommended I reach out to you…”  Spell-out how your connected.  Not sure of a connection? Use Linked-In to see how you connect to a potential Recruiter/Hiring Manager.

Demonstrate your passion (I know, I know):  Clearly and creatively articulate why you want the opportunity to interview for a position.  Give specific examples of how you use a product(s) or your experience with a company.  Make it compelling and interesting.  Show passion.  Readers want a good story, so tell a good one of how you’re connected to the product/organization/company.

Speaking of story, tell yours:  While the Resume is primarily about your professional accomplishments and impact that you’ve made throughout your career, the Cover Letter is a chance to talk about HOW you do your work and WHY you want into an organization. This is the time to talk about your strengths, your obsession for the potential employer and why you think the opportunity is a good fit for YOU (and the company).

Get 80% there:  I recommend one (or two) versions of a Cover Letter that you can customize for each position.  For each company, you’re going to have a different connection and different opportunities, so having a version that 80% there will help a lot.  Professionals should spend about an hour updating their Cover Letter(s) for each position – doesn’t need to take forever. 

Make the ask:  Don’t just close with “Thank you for the opportunity…” Actually make “the ask” to interview for the position (or be part of the organization). While I’m not a fan of “I’ll contact you on Tuesday at 10am if I don’t hear from you…” (that’s a little assumptive in my opinion), I do think you make “the ask” at the close.  You want the reader to know you’re hungry and want to interview for the position.

Get feedback:  Don’t forget to ask your network for feedback on your Cover Letter if you’re really struggling.  Don’t know anyone (or want a third-party/professional perspective)? Reach out to me and I can take a look.  Get a second set of eyes on the document to make it really POP!

Your homework this week: Start your research on good Cover Letter templates.  Again, don’t go for boring – you’re going to want an easy-to-digest, visually compelling version (think bullets).  Don’t go 1984 (single spaced, 18 paragraphs, 4 pages)!  Start the process of creating a draft and see how this feels.  Need help? Shoot me a mail – tom@engagedpursuit.com

Coming-up next week: It’s the end of April!  Hey graduates (and parents), are you panicking yet??  It’s time for our monthly B.A.T.P. where we highlight our favorite Book, Article, TEDTalk and Podcast for April.  You won’t want to miss this one!

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

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1 Comment on Graduation is coming – The dreaded Cover Letter

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