Ask anyone who’s worked with us and they’ll tell you: The cover letters we write are incredibly unique.
Why? Because (unlike the ones from most of our competitors) they can actually help you land a great job.
How are they different? Well, the cover letters we write are more concise, aggressive and to-the-point than probably any cover letter you have ever seen. They are very reader-focused, highly results-oriented and incredibly relevant the employers who are reading them.
Most people assume that cover letters are there to get the resume read. Well I’m here to topple that idea on its head. Let’s go over the biggest reason it DOESN’T happen that way:
It assumes people are going to bother reading the cover letter in the first place.
“But it’s a cover letter,” you say. “The whole point is that it is read first to see whether or not the resume is worth a look!”
Wrong! With the explosion of internet job posting systems (and a fast paced modern world), that whole concept has changed drastically. Typically, each job opening now gets hundreds of applicants – one study showed an average of 200 applicants per job opening in the U.S. and I am willing to be that is a low estimate. With each resume getting looked at for an average of six seconds, do you really think your so-so cover letter will even get a second glance?
Maybe that’s how it used to work. But not anymore.
So, if Cover Letters don’t typically get your résumé read, why even include them? Well, because at Cold Collar we’ve hijacked the cover letter to put it to a new and much more effective use.
We’ve written in the past about the importance of having a resume that ROARs (is Results-Oriented and Relevant) — now we’re going to talk about how to use the cover letter to complement your resume (which will almost certainly be read first). Our process of creating a well done cover letter can help your resume go from the first thing into the garbage can, to the one thing that makes your application stand-out from the crowd!
PLEASE BE CAREFUL! … if you don’t create the right kind of cover letter, in the right way, your whole “perceived brand” goes from bad to worse, putting a magnifying glass on everything you did wrong in the first place.
Let’s avoid that disaster, shall we?
We’re almost to the good stuff – but real quick I want you to imagine you’re an employer, and you’re reading through this big stack of cover letters that all say some variation of the following:
“Dear person, hi, I really want this job and here’s why I think I’m great and I really like your company and I heard about you from Julie and you should hire me. Kthx.”
Okay, so your cover letter is probably a little more cleaned up than that, but still: Blech ! … That’s basically how 90% of the cover letters we see come across to the hiring managers. Guess what? From the reader perspective, it kind of leaves you feeling like the person applying doesn’t care about you at all! I mean, ew!
Anyway, I think you get the point. Our cover letters are not like that. Yours shouldn’t be either.
So now what? How do we fix the problem?
[h2a] 1. This one’s simple: Make the header of your cover letter the same format as your resume![/h2a]
This helps the reviewer easily view the two together, plus it looks very professional–almost like you have your own letterhead. Nobody else is doing this which means you’ll stand out.
[h2a]2. Follow a format that emotionally connects with the reader. [/h2a]
While you have some flexibility with the content (which we encourage you to use tactfully), there is a right format that every cover letter must follow. What format is that? It’s the one that works!
Okay, really though, If you’re not familiar with a good format, please contact us for help. It is important that you not only appear highly professional, but that you also show the reader that you understand how to meet their needs. When you think with their needs in mind, effectiveness goes through the roof!
[h2a]3. Customize the letter for each business and hiring manager![/h2a]
A lot of people aren’t willing to put in the time with this one, printing off dozens of cover letters with “To Whom It May Concern” written across the top. Yea, MAJOR TURN OFF – If you do this, you are hitting like every hiring managers pet peeve, square in the chest.
DON’T DO IT. EVER!
Again for emphasis: NEVER address the letter with “To whom it may concern”! Whenever possible, find the name and title of the hiring manager. If you’ve researched the heck out of it and still can’t find the name? Only as a last resort, use “Dear Hiring Manager,” or something to that effect. The more specific you can be, the more effective the letter will be!
If you don’t get it yet, let me explain a little more. If you are not spending that little extra time to figure out your hiring manager’s name is that they immediately know that you weren’t even willing to spend that little extra time to figure out their name! You might not see it that way, but in their eyes, you’re basically telling them that getting a job at their company isn’t high on your priority list.
[h2a]4. Understand what the cover letter’s real purpose is: To share the personal details that don’t belong in the résumé, and to help in your interview.[/h2a]
Your resume is the proof of your credentials – Everything in it should be 100% Provable (no fluff). Your cover letter on the other hand is the opportunity to convey your personality, your drive, and what makes you-you. In the cover letter it is okay to give the company a snapshot of your work ethic, and it’s okay to generically talk yourself up, without offering the proof (because the proof is in the résumé). It’s a version of branding yourself, that compliments the résumé perfectly.
And, without getting into it too much, your cover letter also gives the reader a better idea of what kinds they should ask you in the interview – it helps you take control of the interview, which will make your role easier to get!
[h2a]5. Give specifics[/h2a]
Once you’ve customized your cover letters, pick out the top three or four companies and positions where you want to work. (Or of you are feeling really aggressive, you can pick up to say 10). Then, use the cover letter to tell them they are your top picks! When the hiring manager knows that you REALLY want a job with them specifically, it will help pique their interest and may help them get specifically interested in you.
[h2a]6. Convey confidence and humility[/h2a]
No, the two aren’t opposite. They are complimentary. Use your cover letter as a chance to let your potential employer know that one, you’re good at what you do! You won’t disappoint if they hire you, but also convey that two, you respect them and their business, and would be honored to be considered for a job.
You have to admit, that is an attractive combination. And, not to brag, but we have a really cool secret to doing this effectively our clients cover letters.
[h2a]7. Use just the right amount of graphic highlighting[/h2a]
Carefully placed graphic highlighting can transform a résumé and a cover letter! (Check out our post on graphic highlighting in résumés here) The truth is, we would LOVE to give you a set rule on how and when to use it effectively, but it just depends on who is on the other end. (We can work with you to help you figure that out.
I guess the closest thing to a general rule I can say is this: Make sure the eyes of the reader go to the right place on the page: The areas that you feel best convey your personal brand. If you can do that, your cover letter will have earned a win.
With these same seven techniques, that we’ve consistently seen amazing results with our cover letters. We hear from hiring managers all the time that our cover letters actually get read! … not to mention the many clients that have used them to land the job of their dreams.
The point is, this stuff really works!
So go for it! Rewrite your cover letter. Get one step closer to that job you’ve always wanted!
As always, we are here to help. Discover other resources we offer on our website and blog, and if you want some help on your cover letter, please just ask!