A 2005 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 8 in 10 hiring managers spend less than a minute reading a cover letter. It is widely accepted that the cover letter is an essential part of any job candidate's application, so how do you make sure yours is compelling enough to impress finicky hiring managers?
Addressing your cover letter "To Whom it May Concern" is an unforgivable sin to most hiring managers. Taking the time to find out the exact person responsible for hiring shows initiative and resourcefulness, two attributes of any good employee. Consult websites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor.com to find out who's in charge, or even call the company directly to see if you can get that information from an administrative assistant.
Address The Company's Needs
You may think the purpose of a cover letter is to sell yourself, and that is partially correct. But what can you do for the potential employer? That's the real question that the cover letter is designed to answer. To do this, you need to know the company's current needs. Review its social media pages, recent press releases and website to gather information about the company's current position, needs and future goals. Then, address these specific details in the body of your cover letter, discussing how you can help the company grow and meet those goals.
When speaking about your skills and accomplishments, quantify your claims with real numbers wherever possible. If you saved a previous employer money, how much was it? If you led your department in sales, how much did you sell? Use figures, percentages and dates wherever you can — not only are they eye-catching, but they also support your claims and make you look like a more valuable candidate.
Hiring managers are busy and tend to skim rather than read most cover letters. For maximum effectiveness, keep your letter under a page. Eliminate areas that seem redundant or unnecessary and just stick to the facts: who you are, what you can do and why you're great for the job. This can and should be accomplished in about three or four well-designed paragraphs.
Your cover letter may be attention grabbing, thorough and highly interesting to read, but if it has even one spelling or grammar mistake, you can forget about getting a reply. Your letter must be flawless. Using a spell checker is not enough; print the letter out and read over it thoroughly. Sometimes, a word or sentence may be grammatically correct but fail to flow well; rewrite any sections that seem muddled or unclear. Ask a friend, family member or trained professional to review your cover letter and provide feedback to be sure you're presenting the best possible version of yourself.
A thoughtful, professional and composed cover letter separates top job candidates from all the others. By customizing your letter, addressing the company's needs, using specific details and proofreading thoroughly, you are giving yourself the best chance at a call back. It is well worth the time and effort to craft a compelling cover letter that is worth reading.
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