I won’t lie to you, I’m not a fan! And you know why? Because jobseekers so very rarely use them effectively. Imagine being a recruiter or HR Manager and being faced with reading 200 generic resumes and form cover letters, just to fill one job! However, if you play your cards right, your cover letter can be your own secret weapon in your job search!
FIRST: YOUR COVER LETTER WILL NOT GET YOU THE JOB.
That’s not the purpose of a cover letter! Remember, that recruiter or HR Manager is only going to spend 10-15 SECONDS PER RESUME (AND COVER LETTER)! So, we’ve got to maximize the effectiveness of both! The purpose of your resume is to get them to pick up the phone and give you a call. The purpose of the cover letter is to get them to read your resume. Your cover letter is your 30-second commercial (or elevator speech), your hard-core sales pitch. We need to get them interested and get them to flip the page and read your wonderful resume you’ve worked so hard on! Think of your cover letter as the entry point to your personal marketing campaign!
SECOND: CONTENT IS SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THE FORMATTING.
Often, a client will ask for help with their cover letter once we finish their resume. And most of the time, their questions are about proper formatting! Yes, you need to use proper formatting; presentation is very important. You can easily pull up a business letter template in Microsoft Word and adapt that for your purposes.
But what is crucial is the meat of your message! You need to show them how you are the answer to their problem (if they didn’t have one, they wouldn’t be hiring!) How can you fulfill the company’s needs? You can do this in a number of ways, but it is vital that you do so in a way that your message is clear and concise. Your cover letter should not even be a full page, and should be no more than two to three paragraphs! The only exception to this rule is if there are explanations needed on your resume, or if the job announcement asked for specific information. You don’t want them wasting those 10-15 seconds on your cover letter; the point is to get them moving to your resume!
THIRD: A COVER LETTER DONE RIGHT WILL SET YOU APART.
Gone are the days where using colored paper or specific weight cardstock made a difference. If you want to stand out from the crowds you have to have to a clear strategy and marketing plan. Everyone else is writing their cover letter “because they have to.” When you focus on maximizing your message with every little second you get of a decision maker’s time, you will be DIFFERENT. Even if they don’t realize how or why, you will stand ahead of the crowds and shine through as thorough, knowledgeable and professional. And no matter what, that’s what you want. It is this tiny attention to detail that is going to make your job search campaign successful!