The secret of winning cover letters
Yesterday, Emily reminded us about the importance of writing a cover letter. Today, I’m going to explain how to write one that really stands out.
How do you stand out from the crowd?
Remember: you’ll have seconds to make an impression, so always have this fundamental question in mind.
We’ve already spoken about the importance of understanding the key challenges of the role that you are applying for, and of demonstrating in your CV a keen awareness of the strategy, vision, markets and needs of the organisation to whom you are applying.
A CV gives you a brief opportunity to concisely demonstrate exactly why you are an excellent candidate for the role. A cover letter gives you the chance to further précis this information into four or five critical requirements and a very brief gold nugget of information about you that can demonstrate that you can deliver on these requirements. If you convince an employer of that in the covering letter, they’ll read your CV to look for the detail.
It’s not what you know but who you know.
Many unsolicited cover letters end up in the bin, but an employer will take note of yours if you have a mutual connection, or were prompted to contact the employer as a result of a meeting or conversation with a somebody already known to them. If this is the case, consider mentioning the connection at the beginning of your letter. An employer with little time to spare may make the time to read what you’ve got to say in such circumstances.
Remember the ‘Point of YOU’.
‘It is to write everything from the reader’s perspective, not yours, and use the word “you” in your correspondence far more frequently than the word “we.” The higher the ratio you have of “you’s” to “we’s,” the better the results you will achieve.’ Robert Clay of Marketing Wisdom
Well, think about what the employer wants when they seek a new person for a role. They have X and Y needs, A and B requirements and P and Q expectations. They don’t give two hoots about you. Write a covering letter that clearly reflects their needs by referring to back to them and you will subliminally make your the reader feel all the more important. You’ll also display an awareness of those needs.
Of course, you have to demonstrate what you bring to the party, but use the ‘I’ and ‘me’ words sparingly and wherever possible only in reference to something that ‘you’ (they) need or want.
Include a call to action or explain what you will do next.
So an employer reads your cover letter: what then? Well, an employer might not do anything with it unless you tell them what you want them to do next. They are far more likely to act if instruct them to do so, so remember to end with a call to action. This may be a request for a meeting (phone or face-to-face) in order to explore the opportunity in more detail. Whatever you do, make sure you let the employer know what you will do to follow up the letter.
The magic effect of high-quality paper.
Imagine this: An envelope arrives on your desk. Remember letters and old fashioned post? This envelope is made of that lovely thick, quality paper, with a hand written name and address on the outside. When you open it, out comes more high quality writing paper, with a beautifully written letter and a smartly printed two page CV.
Do you think you would take the time to read that letter and look at the CV – even if you weren’t a recruiter or employer?
You bet you would. You’d probably take the time to read anything presented that way.
We live in the age of emails: fast, functional, effortless communication. There is a sub-conscious feeling of admiration then for somebody who has taken the effort to write a letter for us, done so on decent quality writing paper and put the whole thing in the post when, in this day of broadband, it is so easy just to send an email.
Of course, email is often the preferred means of communication for recruiters and employers these days, so you may have no choice, but there’s nothing to stop you taking the written and mail option as well, and it’s a great way of getting yourself noticed.
What to do now:
Think about today’s blog and evaluate any cover letters you’ve produced so far. Today’s blog and JobSwot Module 3 contains advice about how you can improve the chances of having an employer call you up. Now’s the time to go and apply it!