What if you asked someone for their business card and they gave you a wrinkled, washed-out slip of paper with their name barely visible due to faded ink? Or what if a prospective employee showed up for a job interview looking disheveled and shabby? Not a great first impression, uh?!
In an era when in-person encounters have become less frequent and the ritual of exchanging business cards is almost obsolete, when it comes to getting hired, making a good first impression depends on cover letters. It is shared knowledge that, if you’re applying for a job and a cover letter is required (and it basically always is), this is what will be seen first, even before your resume!
It is certainly daunting to think that our professional fate, often times, depends on this piece of paper—or PDF, to be more current! —but rather than feeling powerless, we should keep in mind that writing a good and effective cover letter is indeed possible.
Refreshing shared knowledge – Some evergreen tips:
Be concise: your cover letter should never exceed one page – sometimes it’s even a miracle that the person reading it will reach the very end of the page, let alone get to the second!
Stick to the three-part “golden” rule: your cover letter should feature:
1. A “what I like about you” paragraph in which you explain why you’re interested in that specific position and what you like about the employer;
2. A “what you should like about me” paragraph in which you explain why the employer should consider (and possibly hire) you, and what are your skills and achievements;
3. A “next steps” conclusion, consisting of a few formulaic lines in which you state your availability to keep the conversation going.
Customize your product: you cover letter should be tailor-made, it should perfectly fit that specific position in that specific company. To achieve the perfect fit, you must do your “homework” and look up the company online, gather information about their mission, work style, etc. You should give the impression that you’re familiar with the employer and you’re writing your cover letter specifically for them, and not for any of the many employers offering similar positions you may be applying for at the same time. Specificity will make your cover letter opening (i.e., the “what I like about you” paragraph) much more impressive!
Don’t be sloppy (or cocky!): whether you’re writing your cover letter in your native language or not, proofread it several times and make sure your language is polished and typo-free. In addition, ask a trusted person to take a look at your cover letter and give you feedback.
What will make you shine in 2022 – Some freshly-minted tips:
Update your vocab: Language is always evolving, and this is even more evident in field-specific languages. New terms and buzzwords are constantly coined and/or adopted, and it is crucial to be aware of them if you want your cover letter to look fresh and fragrant, and not to smell like mothballs! While there should not be a hodgepodge of buzzwords thrown in just to impress the reader, it is important to pick a few, relevant, and current buzzwords that show your understanding of the field and your “up-to-date-ness”.
Gauge your tone: The notion that a cover letter tone should be formal no matter what is a bit outdated. Your tone should suit the level and type of job you’re applying for, as well as the type of company. If you’re applying for an entry-level position?at a start-up, your cover letter doesn’t need to be highly formal, rather, your enthusiasm and personality should clearly transpire. A dramatically different tone, much more professional and formal, should be used instead if you’re seeking to get hired for a senior position at a prominent, large company.
Get to the point: With increasingly more numerous and more qualified people seeking jobs, recruiters and employers tend to spend less time on each single cover letter. This means that you must be specific and convincing. In the “what you should like about me” paragraph, which is the body of your cover letter, a little bragging is allowed, but don’t overdo it! The bulk of this paragraph should be about how your specific and unique experience(s) will help your future employer pursue their goals and plans.
Know what to emphasize: There are some skill sets that, in 2022, are expected and taken for granted, especially when it comes to technology use. While these skills can certainly be included in your resume, don’t waste precious space in your cover letter mentioning them. They won’t make you stand out from the crowd! Be aware of what the skills are that can truly make you and your contribution to the company unique and better than the rest!
Just as no recipe guarantees a 100% success every single time we bake a cake, as many variables could come into play, similarly it is not guarantee that the perfect cover letter (if it existed) will get you hired, but following a good recipe will certainly increase your chances of success!