Why Write a cover letter?
A lot of people ask me what is the point of writing a cover letter anymore? Do they even get read? Can’t I just send a resume? …and be done with it? Well, short answer is yes, you can just send a resume. But why miss out on the chance to show them that, not only do your skills match the job description (…making you short-listable – scroll down to earlier blog: “Are You Short-listable”) but also show them that your career aspirations and intentions are also a match. That is the sweet spot. That is what recruiters are looking for! We can see from your skills that you can do the job, but what we really want to know is will you??? Your cover letter/email will show whether or not your career intentions and aspirations also fit.
Some recruiters read cover letters, and some don’t. It’s not a “one size fits all” kind of question. As a recruiter, I read your cover letters, because I want as much information on you as possible. I’m working hard to ensure that once you take the job on, you stay and give my client a return on their investment. And I don’t mean stay 3 months. It takes time to master any given role. My expectation is that you’re going to stay at that company 3-5 years. And you won’t stay, if you haven’t done your homework on your goals and the company, by ensuring that this is the exact opportunity you want and need to take your career to the next level. Which is, btw, the desired win-win for everyone concerned. The candidate gets to develop deeper subject matter expertise and further their individual goals, and the employer doesn’t have to deal with costly, disruptive revolving-door talent. So yes, I’m checking out all your stuff, your cover letter, your LinkedIn profile, your recommendations, your resume, your interests.
How to write a cover letter?
Thrown down your first draft. Just get it done.
Start with a greeting, introduce yourself, and offer some context for why you are writing them. Expect the first draft to be rough, and too long.
Then, three short paragraphs: The 1st paragraph should address the match between your skills and this job (refer to earlier blog called “Are You Short-Listable?”. The 2nd paragraph, you can use to showcase your “value-adds” … attributes or skills or knowledge that maybe even aren’t required, but the company would benefit from anyway, like languages you can speak, what your management style is like…offer up some qualifiers here on you, as a person. The last pagagraph is usually used to tie it all together and deliver your business case… why you, why now, why this role, and why are you applying to this particular company?
Pro Tip 1: Once your draft is complete, you need to do a serious edit: go through your letter, and take out every single word that you can. This will lighten it up, create white space/balance, and most importantly, reduce the amount of work the person has to do, in reading your letter. Think concise! Think brevity! You only have 8 seconds to get and keep their attention… Don’t neglect to run a spell and grammar check. When your edit is done, go back over the salutation and sign-off, and ensure they are not overly formal. Think social … salutations/introductions and sign offs are warmer, more informal these days. Take the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with your reader. Authenticity rules! So out with the old “to whom it may concern” and in with something warm, friendly, generous, polite, organized, engaging…
Pro Tip 2: If you have branded letterhead, use it. If you don’t, think about creating a cover letter template for yourself, that matches your overall brand/resume (formatting, fonts, graphics, icons…any visuals). Save the cover letter AND your resume in one file, in PDF format, and call the file “lastname,firstnameCoverCompanyname.pdf”. You’ll look organized, polished, and most important, by naming the file with your last and first names, you are searchable by name in your recruiter’s computer!
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Scroll down for earlier blogs on career planning for the job markets. Usually the best times of the year for job search are September through to end of November in Canada, and January – June.
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