Join Jolie Miller for an in-depth discussion in this video Crafting a cover letter, part of Job Hunting Online.
Cover letters are often the first impression you have a chance to make with an employer. Since the stakes are high, this is a place where I suggest you spend at least 15 to 20 minutes per application tailoring your pitch and language to the role and company. Pitch is the key word here. Cover letters are your sales pitch for yourself, why you're a good fit for that company. So you have to be willing to think critically about how you're going to sell yourself. So let's take a look at my job situation.
I'm applying for the developmental editor role at KinetEco. We already went through my resume customization. We have that list of key words from the job description and the company research. So I have the beginnings here of the cover letter I would put together for this job; a simple date, a greeting, 3 body paragraphs and my closure, Warm regards, and my information. Now there are a few things I want to call your attention to here. I recommend that you stick with no more than 3 paragraphs for your cover letter.
Brevity is your friend. People screening resumes just have seconds oftentimes to spend on each cover letter so grab them with a hook at the beginning, and take them all the way through so they're intrigued to meet you. Here's my 3 paragraph model. The first paragraph sells me and my accomplishments. If I'm doing it right it intrigues you to read the second paragraph. The second paragraph connects the dots between what I've done before and what I need to do.
It also intrigues you to read the third paragraph. In the third paragraph, I am hitting home that I've done my research and emphasizing that I could hit the ground running. I'm a connected applicant. I know what's going on in this space. I could very quickly add value to KinetEco. So there are a couple of changes that I want to make based on my keywords, and I'm going to recommend also that you do this check over your cover letter after you have a draft of it. There are a few buzz words that are in the application information that I want to include.
Right here I have my author's tell me I help them see their content in a new way, but one of the words that's in the job description is coach. My authors tell me I coach them to see their content in a new way. I'm going to include that. That's just reinforcing that important verb that they had included. Another thing I want to check through for is that I have spelled the company's name correctly in every single place.
You can see I have KinetEco up here, but I happened to notice looking through here that I don't have the second E capped down here at the bottom. Referring back to that job post again I know that they spell their name with a capital E for KinetEco, and I want to make sure that consistently I'm referencing the company name correctly. That's important. And then finally I want to encourage you also to do a slow edit pass and read your cover letter backwards word by word.
It will help you find mistakes in your writing if you do it that slowly. It forces you to slow down and give some extra thought to each word and make sure it makes sense. You could also hand this document to a trusted friend, and see if they catch any errors that you have missed because you're close to the material. What I want to leave you with about cover letters, and we'll use this as an example again, is keep in mind these 4 things. First of all they're short. These punchy 3 paragraphs are the most you're going to need here.
Brevity is always your friend in dealing with recruiters. I want you to imagine that every word you have to use counts against you which isn't really far from the truth. Recruiters and HR professionals are busy. You'll be lucky to get a quick 10 second scan on this letter. Second, they hook you with sentence 1, and give you a steady reason to keep reading every sentence. Sell every line so that you're taking someone to that next line. Make sure you're conveying what your story is and why you stand out.
Don't bury it halfway through the letter. Make sure it's right up there in the front. Third, the best cover letters are personal. You can tell from what I've done here, I've both done my research on KinetEco, and I'm linking my skills back to this job and to the company's mission and values. I can't tell you how many times I've screened resumes where someone sent me the same old thing they probably sent 10 other companies in the same day. They know nothing about the role I'm hiring for, or my company, or me, and this doesn't say that the candidate has taken the care to represent themselves which tells me by extension, they may not take the care to represent me and my company in the best light.
Finally, the best cover letters are error free. Spelling mistakes and incorrect punctuation or grammar can make you come across looking sloppy and unprofessional which I know is not what you want hiring managers to think of you. Nothing turns a hiring manager off more quickly except perhaps a cover that's too long for them to read, a bad opening hook, or an impersonal quickly dashed off cover. This may seem like a lot of steps and a lot of time spent toward a cover letter, but my news for you is that this is time well spent in your search.
Consider this that first chance to pitch yourself so be interesting, likable, motivated, and well researched in order to put your best virtual foot forward. You can see as you read through my cover letter I'm applying for a job that has to do with writing so my goal here in the cover letter was actually to show off those writing abilities to show them what they'd be getting that I can make the connection, that I'm really living what they'd be looking for in a developmental editor in this cover letter. And any time that you can take steps to do the same to have your words match the kind of work you'll do that really positions you to be off to the right start.
Then take a quick workshop on applying for a job—from finding the ad to researching the company, tailoring your resume and cover letter, and submitting the application.
- Making a plan for job hunting
- Using popular job sites such as Monster, Simply Hired, and Indeed
- Networking and finding jobs on LinkedIn
- Using Twitter to search for jobs
- Scanning sites of companies you want to work for
- Approaching recruiters