Despite all the work you put into it, your cover letter may not get read. Recruiters just don’t seem to want to take the time, at least until your resume passes their 6-second test.
But what if the recruiter does go to read your cover letter, and it isn’t there, or is done poorly? Now, you’ve wasted an opportunity to impress… and you immediately go to the “no, thank you” pile on the recruiter’s desktop.
To make sure you’re ready when the recruiter does read your accompanying letter, here are the six critical elements of the perfect cover letter:
Demonstrating Relevant Experience
Taking keywords and phrases directly from the job description or company website, make your cover letter highly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Following the job requirements as closely as possible (without just cutting and pasting!) specify the roles you’ve played and tasks you’ve undertaken that make you a qualified candidate.
Besides: if your cover letter looks like a template, the recruiter will likely feel you aren’t making an effort, and the letter probably won’t speak to why you’d be a great fit for the job you’re applying to.
Show Some Personality
Avoid sounding monotonous or boring in your cover letter; recruiters will assume you’re like that in person, too. Be excited about the position (but avoid using exclamation points), and be inspired by the work you would do for the company. Inject what makes you different, and a must-interview candidate.
Sign the letter “I look forward to hearing from you” rather than “I hope to hear from you” or “I think I am qualified for the role.” Assume you will hear from the company in your tone—otherwise they will sense your lack of confidence and question your qualifications.
Use Proper Spelling and Grammar
Everybody thinks this is obvious advice, but it happens all the time. In fact, the most common way to turn off a recruiter remains poor spelling and the use of improper grammar. To the recruiter, this says you’ll make the same kinds of mistakes when you come on board. And no one wants internal or client communications to be filled with errors; it’s bad business.
To brush up on your grammar for free, check out EnglishGrammar101.com for online lessons.
Allude to Your Network
Networking is a critical part of your job search today. If you’ve met someone within the company, reference that person and why they inspired you to apply. It helps even more if the person you’re submitting your resume to is someone you’ve met—tell them why you enjoyed meeting them and why you’d like to work with them. (Appealing to their ego doesn’t hurt!) You can network your way into the job without looking desperate.
It’s critical that your cover letter not be too long. Keep it concise and to the point. Recruiters read so many cover letters in a day they might only skim the really long ones. You want to be heard, so keep that cover letter tight, and make sure every word is relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Before sending the letter, read it over and put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes by asking: “In a sea of competitive cover letters, is this a cover letter you’d be inspired to read? To respond?” If not, take a few more minutes and improve the letter. Your career will thank you for the effort!
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