Did you know that many recruiters make hiring decisions based on your cover letter? That’s probably surprising, but this is where you’re supposed to show yourself off and captivate the reader. In fact, if your cover letter is creative enough, it just might even get you hired. One industry expert said that she knew of a person who was hired based upon a very clever playwright-style script of the candidate and an interviewer talking.
Although that might sound a little hokey to some of us, if you can match to the style of the company where you want to work, you’re going to increase your chances of success significantly. And the better you are at storytelling, the more likely you’ll get placed in that high-priority pile. Companies seldom hire a person based solely on requirements and qualifications. They invariably make hiring decisions based on the culture fit and potential of the candidate.
So with that as a simple overview, here are 10 quick pointers to help you “up your game” when it comes to writing a great cover letter:
- Start from scratch, and don’t use a cover letter template. Be a storyteller.
- Take the time to find out the name of the person who will be reading your cover letter and reviewing your resume. Then address your cover letter to that person. Don’t use general labels like, Dear Recruiter, or Dear Search Committee, or To Whom It May Concern.
- State the job title or ID in the subject line of the cover letter or at the very top. It shouldn’t take up space in the body of your letter.
- Begin the cover letter by telling the reader why the job excites you, and remember that the first line you write has to grab their attention – much like a James Patterson novel tries to grab your attention right away. You want to drag them into “your story.”
- Talk about your skills versus your past experience – that’s what the resume is for.
- Highlight why your skills are the perfect match for the job that the company is trying to fill.
- Match the tone of the company to the extent possible, without coming off as too unprofessional. Remember that they’re trying to decide if your personality fits their culture.
- Don’t talk about your salary expectations. You don’t know if you’re going to be too low or too high. That comes later.
- Use a strong call to action at the end of the letter. “Please call me” doesn’t get it done. Be more forthcoming on setting up a follow-on meeting to discuss the role and your fit in more detail.
- ‘Sincerely’ is not a very strong or unique close. Be more inventive, like “Warm regards,” or something even more unique.
Hopefully this will get you started in the right direction when it comes to making that first impression. There are other things to consider like the proper length. That might vary if you’re applying for a marketing job versus an engineering job, but in general, short, clear, and easy to scan is going to get you the interview.