When looking at the big obstacles between searching for a job and arriving for your first day, it’s easy to forget a step as simple as a cover letter. Too much emphasis is usually placed on building the resume, making sure it has been artfully crammed into one page which reflects experience and hides the “I need a job yesterday” desperation. This couldn’t be more wrong.
Imagine walking up to your crush for the first time and asking to get married, or your doctor saying, “well let’s just try surgery.” It’s insane to think anyone would agree to either circumstance without going through the proper steps leading up to it. A cover letter is the courting phase of the relationship or a trip to the pharmacist before a reach for the scalpel. It lets employers know about you beyond the dates and responsibilities on your resume, it’s your time to show some personality without them rushing to serious commitment.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why every job seeker should spend as much, if not more, time on carefully crafting their cover letter like they do with their resume. These are a few tips to increase the success rate of your cover letter:
Keep It Short
Pause whatever music or television is playing right now. Tune out the world around you and say it aloud to yourself, “Keep. It. Short.” If this list were 10 tips long, keeping it short would be repeated for the first eight.
Employers are busy people. Not only do they have to juggle everyday responsibilities, they potentially have to shuffle through hundreds of applications on top of it. If you send them a short novel of a cover letter, they’ll either ignore it or read it thinking “Man, I don’t like this person already.” Do either of those sound favorable to you?
Stick to three paragraphs or less and get out like the building is on fire. Jumping right to the interesting parts will not only hook them, it ensures they remember it later.
Don’t Repeat Your Resume
Remember, your cover letter isn’t a long-winded resume. You can talk about the positions you’ve previously listed and give a little more detail, but leave it at that. This isn’t the place to describe what your position was or your responsibilities. Instead, expand on what you learned or share how it shaped you. A cover letter is your story, so focus on yourself and what you know.
Just because your readers are hooked doesn’t mean you can end on a weak note. If Star Wars:The Empire Strikes Back had ended more along the lines of “Luke, I’m just the bad guy” instead of “Luke, I am your father,” it’s safe to assume it wouldn’t hold as much critical acclaim today. Sure, the setting and special effects were nice, but the last thing audiences would remember is a big let down.
By the end of the cover letter you’ve already talked about who you are and what you can do, now tell the reader why that’s important to the job they need to be filled. Explain how you can succeed in that role like nobody else can because of everything that makes you unique. Give them that ending they’re just waiting to be blown away or reassured by.
Don’t make the same mistake others do. Take the time to sit down and build or rework a cover letter that’s guaranteed to get you noticed. By following these steps, you’re well on your way to scheduling your first interview.