Writing a better cover letter when job searching

03.14.2014


Writing a better cover letter when job searching
Writing a better cover letter when job searching

After the resume, the cover letter may in fact be the most important piece of the application process. If your resume intrigues a hiring manager, they'll likely then look at the letter, as they'll hope to see more of the same potential. However, if you're unsure about your writing skills, there are steps that can be taken to improve your chances in the field.

According to Lifehacker, a good start to the approach is to consider and know the audience you're writing for. Often, there will be a different person in charge of filling each position, and it's hard to know exactly who is going to be reading your application. As a result, it's important to look at the company's website to know what their specific approach to their industry will be like, and use that information to build a more relevant and accurate picture of your potential employer. At the same time, that research may indeed be worthwhile, as in some cases you'll be able to find the exact person who's going to be reading your application, and you can write to their potential expectations.

At the same time, it's important to distinguish yourself from the pack. The news source stressed that a cover letter needs to sell you as not just a prospective employee but as a person, and presenting an anecdote or interesting note from your work history can make you seem like that much more impressive of a candidate.

Make it separate from your resume

US News and World Report adds that many job seekers make the mistake of simply summarizing their resumes in their cover letters, making the two documents almost indistinguishable from one another. This can backfire, leaving no surprises that would catch managers' eyes. Instead, the news source recommends that in the cover letter, new information that either expands or differentiates from your resume can be important, and this can mean anything from personal traits to work habits. Anything that is likely to separate you from the pack will work well.

However, it's important to avoid hyperbole, as there's no way to guarantee a manager's reaction. For every leader who is interested in a statement like "I am the best candidate for the job," another few will find it naive, overbearing, or overly competitive. It's important to predict what the likely workplace situation and environment will be when you're preparing an application, and being ready to learn from a workplace, instead of looking to dominate it, will have heavy benefits in the long run.

Show, don't tell

In all aspects of storytelling, the oldest adage is "show, not tell." Instead of directly talking at someone about how an event happened, in other words, you should describe the process. That rings true in resume writing. Instead of simply telling someone about your past successes, such as simple lists of accolades and awards you've won in past positions held, describing a situation or story about how you managed to overcome adversity or help your company achieve better results will be heavily beneficial. Even if you describe a mistake and how you improved from the experience, this will further humanize your efforts.

The most important aspect of writing a successful cover letter, however, is to avoid form letters at all costs. Employers will be able to know you've written one stock letter that you've sent with many different applications almost immediately after they read it. It takes more time, but writing a custom letter won't just help you appeal to different employers' needs, but you'll be able to determine your best qualities and improve your writing skills over time.

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