If we asked you what do you think a cover letter is for, what would your answer be? Would it be an introduction to your resume? Maybe perhaps even a summary of your experiences. Is it merely a requirement when applying for jobs – another tick in the checklist of things to do when job hunting?
No, you write a cover letter to stand out from the other applicants. You write a cover letter to impress.
If all you have been doing in the past were copying and pasting a cover letter template you found online, you have been wasting a great opportunity to show your future employer that you’re the perfect person for the position. A cover letter isn’t simply a space you fill with clichés such as “great team player” or “fast learner”.
So, how do you use your cover letter to your advantage?
1. Forget templates. Write from your heart.
You’re not going to impress any hiring managers by using a cover letter you find off the internet. Instead, start with a blank canvas each time you’re applying for a job. Think of your cover letter as a way to tell the employer that you’re a really likeable person that would fit in with the company’s culture, not another academia cyborg who has just graduated from university.
2. Tell the hiring manager why you’re interested in working for the company.
Remember, hiring managers get hundreds to thousands of applications with similar reasons for wanting to work in their companies. Take it up a notch by stating your interest in the company in a way that flatters them. Don’t overdo the flattery though, but craft it in a way that makes them feel special. It would also help if your reasons for wanting to work in the company go beyond the usual reasons.
3. Use your personal experience to explain why you fit their requirements.
Hiring managers wouldn’t spend a lot of time reading your cover letters. Don’t list out every single experience you’ve had. Make use of the job description and responsibilities in the ad to determine what exactly the hiring manager is looking for and clearly state why you can deliver on these points.
4. Your cover letter is your story. Tell it well.
Let’s put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes for a moment. Would you be drawn in reading a cover letter with facts and data or one that tells a story about the applicant? Humans love stories. They like connecting with someone else. Put your personality into your cover letter – your cover letter is a part of you, so how are you going to convey that in words?
5. Don’t begin with “Dear Hiring Manager”. Address someone in the company.
Addressing no one in particular wouldn’t give you extra brownie points. Instead, do a little investigative research to find out the name of the hiring manager. Sometimes the company’s page has an introduction of the team, or else head over to LinkedIn to do a quick search. Your effort would be appreciated.
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