When looking for work you will come across a variety of opinions on whether or not you need a cover letter.
Yes, you will need a cover letter but not for every position you apply too. Each company requires something slightly different.
Let's first discuss the purpose of the cover letter to help you better understand how to use it.
The cover letter is used by you to help the employer determine if you are the best candidate for the position.
At no point do you take what you have on your resume and include it in your cover letter. This is a sign of laziness and makes you look really bad.
The cover letter should showcase....
- Your writing ability
- Your organization ability
The employers must see that you can fit in with the company culture and that you can get your thoughts across as clearly as possible.
What they also look at is your grammar, spelling and the actual words you use.
I will highly recommend you use common words and leave the educated words alone as you never know who will be reading the resume. Simple is better. Trust me.
Cover Letter Types
There are so many ways to create a cover letter. Some use just paragraphs and others use bullet points. There are those that use a combination of both and so much more.
The key with the cover letter is to convey to the employer they should call you for an interview and not the other person.
You also want to do this using the least amount words possible while making your point.
You will learn as you work with me that most people in HR cannot read your entire resume or cover letter. They skim at best and remember the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) scans the resume and cover letter first then a human sees it.
It is important you include common industry key phrases within your cover letter as that is what the ATS look for.
Here are a few samples just to give you an idea of what you can do:
Now I am going to show you the format I have been using for the past 26-years that has not failed me yet. 🙂
I have shared this with thousands of people. Some use and some do not. But for those that did they are happily working again.
I want to help you to understand why this works. Remember, this is how I do it until it stops working for me. Feel free to use what you feel best suits you.
At the very top we have the date. Always include the date.
Four lines below that you see company information. Make sure to include the person's name if you have it or just their title if you do not know their name. Put the company name and address.
Then we get to the salutation "Dear (person's name or Sir/Madam)". If you have the person's name then use it.
If all you have is an initial and last name then use that but do not attempt to find out their first name. Just use what they have given you.
If you do not know who to address then stick with the traditional "Sir/Madam."
I already know you think this is outdated but let me help you here.
Almost everyone I talk with tell me they say, "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Recruiter" or "Dear HR Manager" or "Dear HR Director", etc.
I feel that sounds impersonal because you may not know their title. With the "Sir/Madam" it shows a sign of respect and does not sound like everyone else. Try it and see what happens as it has not failed me yet when I do not have a name.
The first paragraph is critical but very simple. It tells the employer the position you want, where you found then, and when you found them.
This makes HR department life easier for tracking purposes, so they can identify which medium is generating the best employment leads.
Most people will tell you to forget this one paragraph but I still keep it because I know HR spends money to advertise and like tracking their results.
The second paragraph is critical. This is where you take one relevant piece of your experience and showcase how you would be the ideal candidate for the position. This has to be strong, solid and do not hold back. It is time to brag about what you have accomplished.
The third paragraph is an acknowledgement of their time and consideration for reading it.
Now, at first glance, you might be saying, "Wait a minute. This is too short. It doesn't say much!"
I agree it is short on purpose. The first paragraph is only two lines, the middle paragraph is only four lines and the last paragraph is only one line.
It is designed to be that way because when an employer reads your cover letter which paragraph jumps out at them? The one with four lines. And what is included in that? Your relevant experience showing how you are the best person for the job.
That middle paragraph can have bullet points if you like. It doesn't matter because it will still be the focal point of the cover letter.
Traditional advice tells you to write as much as you can to impress the recruiter. That does not work all the time because many do not have time to read but skim. And remember, the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) scans the documents before they usually read it.
You will also hear, "Include relevant keywords in your resume and cover letter." I agree they should be there but use them wisely to show how qualified you are to do the job.
Don't just use the words just to have them in the document. Make sure it makes sense to use them. That means you may have to rewrite a few bullet points on your resume.
You now have four different formats you can use for a cover letter. You just have to pick one of them and run with it.
Next, you have to spend some time deciding on what you want to include in the cover letter. Just make sure you do not repeat what is on your resume or LinkedIn profile.
Finally, get someone to review it for you and begin to use it.
There are a few modifications that I have made to the cover letter and resume that gets you even more responses for interviews but that is reserved for individuals take my Back 2 Basics Coaching Service.
If you are serious about transforming your life and willing to put forth the effort, I can assist you to achieve your personal, professional and educational goals.
I only help people who help themselves! Hopefully, you will be one of the 100,000 people I will help this year.
I wish you much success in your endeavor to get a better job or to find a job. You have all that you need. You just have to figure out how to use it effectively.
Until next time!
Shawn "The Job Hunt Ninja" Nelson