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How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter Employers Will Actually Read
Employers receive hundreds of job applications a day, and they won't give yours a second glace unless it stands out from the rest. As a job seeker, it's your responsibility to market yourself in a way that makes the employer think, "I need to have this person on my team."
A simple resume wouldn't do the trick. You need a cover letter. A cover letter will tell the employer who you are, which position you're interested in, and why you're perfect for the position. A cover letter gives you a great opportunity to do something your resume couldn't do: dazzle the employer with your charm, which could put you over the top of other applicants. If written well, your cover letter could be your golden ticket to the job you're pursuing.
In fact, 75 percent of employers listed in the book The 100 Best Companies to Work For agree that a well-written cover letter improves the odds of a less-qualified applicant scoring an interview. If that's not a good reason to start writing impressive cover letters, then we don't know what is!
If you're ready to tackle the art of writing riveting cover letters that will knock any employer off his feet, please read on.
Employers often play the 30-second game. They scan each applicant's submission for about 30 seconds before deciding whether or not it belongs in the trash. Even though it seems nearly impossible, you can utilize the short time frame to capture an employer's attention. All you need is a well-crafted cover letter that's concise, interesting, and specific to the position you're applying for.
Here are a few tips on how to write such a cover letter.
Find out the hiring manager's name.
There are only a few things employers hate more than a generic cover letter. Even if your cover letter is completely tailored towards the company and the position you're applying for, it won't appear so if it's simply addressed to "hiring manager" or "whom it may concern". Such a generic opening weakens the entire letter and increases the chances of the letter ending up in the waste bin. It shows that you don't care enough to find out the hiring manager's name.
Do your research. Look online, call the company, or ask around for the hiring manager's name. If you absolutely cannot find the hiring manager's name, call the company and ask to be directed to the human resources department, where you will get in touch with someone. If you happen to get that person's voicemail, write down his name and address the letter to him, even if it's not the right person. He will receive your resume and pass it along to the right person within his department.
Be the company's #1 fan.
How can you show the employer that you're a good fit for the company if you don't know the first thing about them? If you familiarize yourself with the company's products, history, mission statement, industry, clientele, and corporate culture, you will be able to give the employer a few highly specific reasons why you're perfect for the position. Put yourself in the employer's shoes. If you receive two cover letters, and the first one reads:
"I'm a good fit for the position because I'm focused, hardworking, and very passionate about my career."
The second one reads:
"When I read Bill Blogger's blog post titled ‘Why XYZ Shoe Company is One of the Most Innovative Companies in the 21st Century', I became immensely intrigued about your company. After subscribing to XYZ Shoe Company's Weekly Newsletter, I found that your company is what Mr. Blogger points out to be "original in its strategy" and a place that maintains a "thinking outside of the box" attitude. I share XYZ's values and I believe that, as a seasoned product developer continually recognized for his forward thinking, I would help move the company in a new and exciting direction."
After reading both excerpts, which applicant would you hire in a heartbeat?
Bottom line: know the company, and show it in your cover letter. Scour the company's website, read recent articles about the company, subscribe to their blog or newsletter, and do whatever you can to gather all the information you need to craft a fantastically targeted cover letter.
Emphasize your Unique Selling Proposition.
Every employer wants an employee who is smart, gets stuff done right, and is a good fit for the company's culture. If you're all three of those, that's great, but chances are the employer is looking at a few other applicants who fit the bill, too. You want to put yourself over the top of other applicants, and the way to do it is to highlight your unique selling proposition (USP).
Why should the company hire you over someone else? Is it because of your mad negotiation skills? Your freakishly sharp attention to detail? Your natural ability to schmooze people, namely important clients? What can you offer that no other candidate can? Find one thing that makes you unique, and figure out how that wonderful trait will help the company. When you figure it out, work it into your cover letter (as well as your resume and job interview). Keep it short and descriptive, and don't forget to include specific examples of how it would benefit the company.
Proofread, proofread, proofread!
All your hard work of crafting the perfect cover letter will be in vain if the letter is riddled with grammatical errors. Actually, one small error could be enough to send your cover letter to the waste bin. Proofread your cover letter and have a friend (or two) review it and correct any mistakes before sending it out.
Aside from grammatical errors, there are things you want to avoid when writing a cover letter. Take a look at the following things you should not do.
Use cliché language.
"I am a dynamic, proactive team player with extensive experience in fast-paced managerial positions." Barf! A cover letter stuffed with business jargon is fluffy and adds no value to the reader. Employers aren't looking for robots spouting meaningless cliché phrases. They're looking for real people with real thoughts. Just let your personality shine through!
Brag about your achievements.
Nobody likes a bragger. Enough said. Talk about your achievements only if they're relevant to the position you're applying for, and always write in a humble tone.
Make it all about you.
A cover letter is supposed to delineate what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.
Write the same letter twice.
Employers can spot a generic cover letter a mile away. Take the time to craft a cover letter specific to the position you're applying for.
Include personal details.
It's great that you grew up in Pennsylvania, but is that really relevant to the job you're applying for?
Exceed one page.
Employers are very busy people. They don't have the time to read long-winded cover letters. Keep it strong, concise, and effective.