Think you don’t need a cover letter? Think again. Cover letters are like appetizers for the main course of your resume. They enhance the experience of “Brand You,” and whet the appetite of your (hopefully) future hiring manager.
The harsh truth is that there are probably hundreds of applicants applying for the job you want and the hiring manager might not even read your letter. Fortunately, there are still hold outs (and this is personal experience I’m speaking from here) that refuse to read a resume submitted without an impressive cover letter.
It’s kind of like gambling and I prefer to hedge my bets. So, do you need a cover letter? YES! Each and every time.
Do you really want that job? Well then, GO GET IT. To beat out the competition, you need a cover letter and resume that captures the hiring manager’s attention. Below are four ingredients that will help you grab hiring managers by the eyeballs and compel them to put your name on the office door.
1. Screw Convention (and, no, that’s not a typo)
If I’m a hiring manager, you’ve got 30 seconds, tops, to make me want to give you another 30 seconds. That means you’ll need to break with conventional openings. Let’s take a look at some sample cover letters:
“I am applying for the Inside Sales position posted on LocalWork.com. At your convenience, I’d appreciate the opportunity to discuss the position and my candidacy with you. You can find my resume attached to this e-mail.” (Source jobsearch.about.com)
“I am writing to inquire about possible openings at ABC Company for a research assistant. I am interested in a senior level position offering the opportunity for travel and advanced research assignments.” (Source: wikihow.com)
Yawn. Both of these cover letter openings are pretty drab and generic. They are a boring snoozefest! Think about the hiring manager in this case: nobody wants to see the same, boring thing over and over again. That first paragraph should attract their attention and pack a punch!
Here’s an example of a powerful opening line cover letter style that I like.
“There is only one rule that I follow in business. Do what works.
Over the course of my career, I’ve successfully adapted quickly to changing circumstances and probably most important, I stayed ahead of my competition. I moved into online marketing at least 5 years before my direct competitors and drastically reduced the cost of acquiring new customers. Essentially, I grew the business in 3 key ways:”
See the difference?
2. Follow the Rules
Wait, wait… I thought that you just said that I should screw convention? Yes, I did. The rules I mean are the ones for grammar and spelling. No matter how funny, exciting, unique or awesome you are, it won’t be communicated through your writing if there are lots of typos.
Also, if you’re sending a cover letter to a company that wants something specific from you, make sure that you follow their instructions to a T. For instance, if a recruiter asked for two and only two samples of your work don’t give twenty. If they’ve set a word-count limit on the cover letter, stay within the count. You may be the best, brightest and coolest kid on the block, but if the hiring manager can’t trust you to follow the simplest of directions, you’re out.
3. Answer THE question
Now that your cover letter has grabbed the hiring manager’s attention, there’s only one question left: why should I hire you over all these other people? The hiring manager wants to make the company better by hiring the right person. They don’t want to hire someone who’s not a good fit.
Get straight to the point and make sure that your cover letter isn’t too ‘me’ focused. You should be selling your services. Tell them how you can help the company through what you have delivered in the past. If your answer as to why you should be hired is “because I’m awesome,” then you’re giving hiring managers some waste-paper basketball practice.
4. Seal the Deal
Now you’ve ramped the hiring manager up to the point that they’re chomping at the bit to talk to you. You’ve demonstrated the fact that you’re the BEST person possible for the job. What’s next?
Seal the deal. Tell the hiring manager what to do. In sales and marketing parlance, it’s called “a call to action.” The goal is to spur your hiring manager into calling you. It doesn’t have to be any longer than a line, really, just enough to give them guidance. Don’t make this one confusing by giving them more than one action to do. Be professional, but blunt.
“Thank you for the time you are taking to review my qualifications. I look forward to your call and the opportunity to work with you.”
One last piece of advice to get the hiring manager to pay attention to you – be a little entertaining. See if you can make yourself smile with your letter. After reading so many boring cover letters, those hiring managers will appreciate the break.
Think you have something to add to this discussion? I can be reached via my website at www.virtuosoresumes.com and would love to hear your comments.