Do You Need a Cover Letter?
Times have changed and much of the job application process is done online. If you’ve suffered through electronic application processes that have you enter every detail of your career history, you might think you don’t need a cover letter. But I’m here to tell you that the cover letter is just as important as it was the last time you applied for a job, now even more so.
I’m not talking about the cover letter template you got from Microsoft Word where you update the middle sentence with your newest accomplishments. The cover letter I’m talking about packs a punch!
Last year I partnered with Jobscan to offer a free webinar for job seekers during the pandemic. My webinar was titled How to Write a Cover Letter that Makes a Difference.
This is a FREE webinar that you can access anytime to help accelerate your search and get results faster. If you’ve been searching for a while now with no results, your cover letter can set you apart from the competition. You can catch the playback below:
Why You Need a Cover Letter
If your resume and LinkedIn profiles contain all the details of your past career history, then your cover letter is what tells the story of you. It tells your future employer why you are right for the position and what you bring to the table.
A recent study from ResumeLab surveyed 200 recruiters and HR professionals and found:
- 83% of respondents said a great cover letter can secure you an interview even if your resume isn’t good enough.
- 74% of recruitment decision-makers prefer to receive job applications which include cover letters apart from resumes.
- Even if submitting a cover letter is optional, 77% of recruiters will give preference to candidates who did send a cover letter.
- Today, 36% of hiring decision-makers read a candidate’s cover letter before they review the resume.
As you can see, the data doesn’t lie, a well-written cover letter can make a HUGE difference and set you apart from other candidates. In today’s world of automated applications, it might take some time before you’re able to speak with a person over the phone or in an interview during your job search. That’s why a cover letter can be the thing that humanizes you. Take a look at the below sentences and let me know which one stands out:
- To Whom It May Concern: This letter is to introduce myself and to let you know of my interest in becoming part of your company. The enclosed resume will furnish you with information concerning my overall employment background, training, education and skills. (See Business Insider’s article on the Worst Cover Letters)
- I am writing in response to the opening for xxxx, which I believe may report to you. I can offer you seven years of experience managing communications for top-tier xxxx firms, excellent project-management skills, and a great eye for detail, all of which should make me an ideal candidate for this opening. (See Business Insider)
How to Get Started
Now that you understand the power of a good cover letter, how do you create a stellar document for yourself? I challenge you to take pen to paper and handwrite your information. There are lots of studies out there sharing how handwriting enhances memory, recall, and cognitive function. This will help you when you’re trying to remember all your accomplishments. Then translate it to the computer.
Before you start writing you want to gather information:
- What are you known for?
- What do people consistently say about you?
- What do you know about this position? The company?
- Print out the job posting and highlight key words. Where do your skills and experience align with the posting? Write about that! It demonstrates that you know the organization and the role you are applying for.
Writing about ourselves is sometimes hard to do, but think of your cover letter as your sales pitch, with you as the product. This isn’t the time for dry, vague buzzwords. Really think hard about what your friends and coworkers would say about you. This is the time to become your own hype person.
Cover Letter Formatting
Remember, each letter you write is a snowflake – it should be unique and tailored to the position and company. I advise clients to follow the 1-3 Template which is a one-page letter with three paragraphs. A great example of this comes from the movie, The Princess Bride. If you’ve never seen it, one character, Inigo Montoya (portrayed by Mandy Patinkin) is looking for the man that killed his father and he repeats the same speech repeatedly throughout the movie. So much so it is burned in your brain by the end of the movie. But it’s memorable, direct, and effective.
Your outline should follow:
Opening Paragraph – Lead with the skills, knowledge, education you have. This paragraph should introduce yourself, the position you are seeking and share why you are a fit for the role. You want to make sure you’re using their words back to them, so you want to familiarize yourself with the job description/posting.
Middle Paragraph – This paragraph is where you get into specific details on your accomplishments and highlights across your career or current role. You can use bullets in the section, but you want to be specific and direct.
Closing Paragraph – Your close should emphasize your confidence in the match and how the company can reach you.
When you complete your first draft, I recommend putting your letter away for at least a day before editing and proofreading. When you are editing, you should be reviewing the document for content, style and flow. You can catch things by reading out loud. Then proofread for spelling and grammatical errors. You can also use the free tool, Grammarly to help you review.
Depending on the application platform, save your cover letter and resume together as a PDF to preserve your formatting.
I recently spoke with a client who hired ME because of a cover letter that I wrote for someone HE hired! In this instance, my client definitely stood out – people are noticing her!
If you’re not getting results from your applications, consider overhauling your cover letter. If your cover letter doesn’t make you feel confident and proud of your accomplishments, then it needs a rewrite. If writing about yourself feels like torture, I’m here to help! Schedule an appointment with me and get a stellar cover letter to help you land that dream job.