So, what are my tips for using a cover letter to land a job interview. Well, let state that it’s been awhile since I last wrote a specific article on writing cover letter or resumes. A lot of that is because I basically wrote everything I knew in the articles that started Landing On Your Feet off.
And I felt that there were some really good and informative articles out there – written by real gurus – that could be of greater help. But occasionally I will write a brief article and have it published somewhere.
This one that I wrote a few weeks back seem to be popular, so I thought I’d reprint it here for your digestion…
Some treat job hunting as a numbers game. They hold to the belief that the more they flood the market with their resumes, the greater the chances of success. But much like the miners of old, the numbers game is a fool’s gold hunt.
The smart strategy is to target your efforts. Like a tight laser beam, a targeted approach brings far more intensity to the effort. And in today’s job market, intensity is what you may need.
You must distinguish yourself as a candidate in eyes of an employer flooded with resumes.
To that end, your most critical tool may be the cover letter. With a tight job market, it is this short document of 3 or 4 paragraphs that can determine whether an employer will invite you to an interview.
While it is true that a good cover letter can act as your sales pitch, that single sheet can also provide clues to the employer.
- It acts as a writing sample and provides a glimpse into your ability to structure thought.
- It shows whether you cared enough to do genuine research.
- It shows whether you can make a tight, compelling argument with brevity.
In essence, a good cover letter helps an applicant connect with an employer with that one sheet of paper. That is not going to happen with mass mailings where only the name and address is changed.
And in seeking to connect with an employer, there are a few red flags to be aware of:
- Always open a letter with why you are writing. It should be simple and direct: I’m writing in response to your company’s ad for a project manager in the Boston Globe on January 1, 2011. I am also writing because Jack Slack recommended I apply for this project manager position.
- When you write why you would be good fit for this position; write in terms of how the company benefits. The resume is the list of “me, me, and more me.” The cover letter is all about the employer and the company.
- The second paragraph, or two, is about how your skills fit the employer’s needs.
- Brevity and open spaces make for an easy read. That is, you should always consider using bullet points to list skills and/or experiences that are directly germane to the position.
- In seeking to make a connection and inject your personality into the letter; you should not, however, get cutesy or frankly irrelevant. The letter must be professional and basically answer the question, “so, what do you bring to the table?”
- Likewise, you should not get too cute with the paper and fonts. The best fonts will always be Arial and Times New Roman. And nothing about the paper should detract from the message – that message is how the employer benefits from meeting with you.
- You must always end the letter with a call to action.
A well written cover letter can be a powerful document that can compel an employer or hiring manager to call you in and of itself. That is not going happen if you believe that your best chances lie with flooding the market with your resumes.
You should seek a more targeted approach.
So, what do you think…
Valid, or not…
For more of my thoughts on cover letters, head over to my Cover Letter Resources and Tools page for a more in depth discussion.