No One Reads Cover Letters

Most of the job seekers I know get hung up on writing their cover letter . How do I tell the hiring manager everything he needs to know about me in one page? they ask.

And I answer: You don’t.

Here’s the thing: In your cover letter , employers don’t only want to hear about you. They want to hear about themselves, too. Think about it: Some employers receive hundreds—even thousands—of applications for a single position, and presumably, a large percentage of those applicants are qualified for the job. They read pages upon pages of very qualified people describing their very relevant qualifications—so, unless you’ve done something really out-of-this-world, yours may or may not stand out.

On the other hand, if you can show a company right away how (and why) you’d add value to their team—that’s compelling.

So, for your next cover letter, stop making it all about you. Here’s what you should be saying instead.

1. Why You Love the Company

The best cover letters I’ve read are from people who have a passion for my company, and can make that passion come to life on a page. The letters that make me say, “Yes! This person really gets it.” Because, at the end of the day, I want to hire people who already get it. Most hiring managers do.

But most candidates don’t go the extra mile of showing that they get it . At best, they’ll mention the company name or say something like, “I want to work at an exciting company”—neither of which really say much. Instead, spend the first paragraph of your cover letter sharing, in great detail, why you love the company and just how much you get it.

2. What You’d Do There

Your resume is a list of your qualifications and skills, so you don’t have to regurgitate those in your cover letter. What you should do instead? Talk about how those qualifications and skills would be put to good use at the company. In detail. Don’t just say, “I know I could put my social media expertise to good use on your marketing team”—share 1-2 very specific ideas of what you might do once hired at the company (backed up by your track record of amazing accomplishments, of course).

For example, talk about an on-brand hashtag campaign you’d run on Twitter to engage users (and mention you’ve done this before, if you have), or make some concrete suggestions on how the company might adapt its Pinterest strategy to better get in front of its target demographic. Make the hiring manager think he or she can’t live without you.

3. Why You’re a Culture Fit

Last, but certainly not least, your cover letter is the perfect place to show how you’d fit in with the company culture . You don’t necessarily have to describe why you’re a culture fit (and in fact, this can be annoying), but you can show you are by the tone, words, and level of formality you use. (Uber-corporate office? Keep it professional. Creative ad agency? Absolutely ditch the “I was excited to find this position” opener.)

But, by all means, if there are specific cultural references you can include, do. Is the place known for being the most dog-friendly company in your city? Say how much you and your golden retriever would like to join the team.

If you can show your passion, your ideas for the company, and your personality, and translate them into language the hiring manager understands, you’ll be doing so in no time.

Photo of cover letter courtesy of photo source .

By Nicole Wray

To whom it may concern, your cover letter probably isn’t being read. Especially if you’re starting it with “To whom it may concern.”

According to a Forbes article written by a recruiter with 15 years of experience, many recruiters “almost never” read the cover letter. However, unless you are told not to include one, cover letters are a job search must do.

Here are three things to consider when creating a winning cover letter.

The basics: customize your cover letter

Whether it’s a human or a computer reading your cover letter, including key words from the job posting will show the reader that you’ve done your homework. Be sure to clearly state the position you are applying for, the main skills required for the position and how your work experience demonstrates that you possess those skills.

To really impress the reader, research the company and include one or two facts about the business that relate to the position you’re applying for (for example, “I read in Canadian Business that you won the Xyz Award for the best creative marketing campaign last month”).

A cover letter offers the opportunity to directly address the reader, so if it’s not listed on the job posting, use your resources (Google, LinkedIn, a telephone) to find out who you need to address your letter to. To go the next step, make sure that your application lands in their inbox.

The content: honesty is the best policy

Forbes recently published an article about a cover letter that Wall Street bosses are calling “the best cover letter ever.”

In the letter, a summer internship applicant writes, “I won’t waste your time inflating my credentials…The truth is I have no unbelievable special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you.”

Such upfront honesty won’t work for every industry, but this internship applicant was rewarded for avoiding a common cover letter downfall — the tendency to exaggerate your qualifications.

Inflating your skill set by using vocabulary that’s outside of your everyday language makes a cover letter awkward to read and difficult to write. To create a cover letter that’s professional, yet conversational, don’t use two words where one would work and don’t use a 10-cent word where a two-cent word will do.

Above and beyond: when to craft a creative cover letter

A creative cover letter alternative must be of professional quality and must highlight your skills as they apply to the job you are competing for.

For example, instead of writing a traditional cover letter for a corporate communications position that I applied for, I created a media kit about myself including a press release, a fact sheet and my resume. Although I didn’t get the job, I scored an interview at a great company.

If you’re willing to go the extra mile to craft a creative cover letter, know the industry you want to work in, be professional and use common sense. A poorly executed YouTube video probably won’t get you an interview for an accounting position. However, a well-made website (this genius mock-up of an product page featuring his candidacy as the product) might put your resume on top of the pile for a digital media position.

Do you think cover letters are becoming extinct? Have you had a successful creative cover letter experience? Share your thoughts in a comment.

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