Cover Letter Tips for Success

cover letter tips for success

There are many of us who know that we’re the best candidate for whatever job we’re applying to.  However, we fail to make that point correctly when applying.  The fact is that you’ll probably never get to the point where its your resume that disqualifies you because your cover letter is really what’s betraying  you.

In general you have 4 – 6 seconds to capture the attention of the hiring manager or HR person reading your cover letter.  Sadly, if that person has spent all day reading and looking over resumes and cover letters you may find that they never read yours just because if doesn’t please the eye.

There are many factors to consider when attempting to create the perfect cover letter:  template, style, fonts, and colors – but that’s a discussion for another day.

Here are some tips to help you find better success in writing your cover letter.

GENERAL TIPS:

  • Most cover letters consist of 4 to 5 brief paragraphs or sections (remember: less is more).
  • Paragraph 1 should be no longer than 2 to 3 sentences. (see PARA 1)
  • The cover letter is not about making any claims; it’s about providing a taste of the evidence that will be available in your resume.
  • Make sure to include metrics or measurable achievements/accomplishments.
  • If applicable (such as a distant network cover letter, or a cover letter directed at a recruiter), ask for a feedback of your resume (the chances increase substantially that they’ll read your resume.
  • When a job posting contains 10 or 15 qualifications or requirements, choose no more than 8 to address the most complicated, complex, and sophisticated needs in your bullet points.
    • Try to incorporate that information in a table or incorporate it all into one cohesive sentence such taking the 5 – 8 qualifiers and your accomplishments and placing them into two columns.
    • Do not address all of the requirements because this will take up too much space.
      • This can seem complicated but just use your best judgement and simply state that you do have the remaining qualifications which can be found on your resume. Again, be mindful of your space so as not to exceed one page.
    • When stating that you’re making a career change, address it in a career summary which should be 3 – 4 sentences that highlight overall experience and relevant transferable competencies; this should be your opening paragraph.

PURPOSE OF YOUR COVER LETTER:

  • To get hiring managers to read your resume.
  • To demonstrate how your background fits with their needs.
  • To deliver a taste of your brand (what it is, what it would be like working with you).
  • To highlight the overall areas you’ve worked in and results of what you’ve done, accomplished, or achieved. (You provide the details in the resume.)
  • To provide evidence, not claims.
  • To show what you can do for others (the company, co-workers, etc.)
  • To demonstrate that you understand what the company is looking for; that it isn’t about you.
  • To highlight how you can provide solutions (like cost reduction, savings, staffing issues, etc.) or benefit the company with its current problems.

WHAT HIRING MANAGERS ARE LOOKING FOR CURRENTLY:

  • Make sure to use keywords from the actual job description for fast or computer matching
  • Only use 2/3 of page (leave white-space for notes made by hiring managers)
  • Always include your linkedin url
  • Be ready to change your particular key words to fit the job description (team manager becomes team leader; division manager becomes division supervisor, etc.)
  • Provide links to charts matching your skills to their needs (if applicable).

MISTAKES TO AVOID:

  • Make sure that your cover letter doesn’t exceed one page.
  • Make sure that you avoid “idol” statements or being overly “chatty”.
  • Make sure that you excluding personal information about goals.
  • Make sure to exclude any personal commentary on why you go into a certain profession unless it pertains to medical, nursing, law, engineering, or advanced sciences and math. (This type of commentary is not appropriate for careers such as investment banking, consulting, and the like (with a few exceptions)).
  • Avoid using words and phrases such as assisted, responsible for, participated in, was a team member on, conducted, identified, analyzed, created, championed, oversaw, etc.
  • Avoid writing the words successful or effective all over the place.
  • Do not take your accomplishments out of the job which they occurred.
  • Avoid using the phrase “I am confident I would be the best choice, fit, candidate, etc.  Let the hiring manager decide if you’re the best.
  • Avoid burying the lead.
  • Don’t give too much text or over-explain your actions/ results are more important in sales processes and your cover letter is a sales document.
  • Do not blend technical language with colloquialisms.
  • Do not repeat the same accomplishments in different places or restate them.
  • Don’t use too much jargon.
  • Avoid using the word global. Instead list the names of countries you’ve done business with.
  • Make sure to succinctly capture the skills you want to communicate up-front.
  • Always use Sir, Ma’am, Ms. Or Mr. never address anyone by their first name.
  • Use your best judgement and air on the side of formality.
  • Make sure that the accomplishments on your cover letter match or sync up with your resume which is where you can go into a bit more detail.
  • Don’t put some grand accomplishment on your cover letter that isn’t going to be backed up on your resume.

PARA. 1

  • Begin with 2 to 3 short sentences about the company and your interest in it.
  • Be methodical and mindful about how you present your information.
    • Make sure to remember that in this section you are not making any claims, you’re providing a taste of the evidence that will be available in your resume. (Note the flow of information presented in these bullet points.)
  • State who you are and how you learned of the opportunity (networking, from a colleague, friend, or job board).
    • State what attracts you to the company and the specific position.
    • State that you’ve done research on the company and understand the problems it currently faces. (This lets you state that you have skills that address what the company is looking for).
  • Explain why your role, skills, and/or experience matches whatever you’re applying for.
  • State that you are excited about the opportunities and problems and how you’ve overcome similar problems in your past (work experience, not personal).
  • State that you’re looking to bring similar contributions to the company.

PARA. 2

  • This is usually your longest paragraph.
  • Start by writing what you’re currently doing, and your most recent accomplishments.
  • Focus on keyword skills (e.g. customer service, data analysis, etc.) and whatever you’ve done that’s applicable to whatever you’re applying for.
  • A reverse chronological structure works well because most of the time your most relevant experience will be the most recent.
  • Use no more than 5 sentences.

PARA 3

  • This paragraph is about your overall career.
  • Don’t list every job in chronological order; simply summarize (e.g. 7 years’ experience as an engineer, 3 in product development, etc.).
  • Highlight your most relevant accomplishments as related to the just. List up to 5.

PARA 4 (CONCLUSION)

  • This is where you’d list any unique qualifiers such as languages spoken, or cultures that you’re extremely familiar with.
  • Don’t forget to remind them that your resume is attached and state that you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon.
    • Use judgement when thanking someone for their time. It isn’t your time that matters and it causes a power differential. Instead just thank them for taking the time to read your cover letter, or thank them for their consideration.
  • Mention that you will be in touch as well. With 7 days of submitting your resume and cover letter, follow up with a thank you card.

CONTENT CHARTING:

REQUIREMENT: EXPERIENCE:
Coordinate forecasting and budgeting activities. At Barclays Global Investors, developed annual operating budgets, and periodic forecast updates thereon.
oversee adherence to company financial policies and procedures At Federal Home Loan Banks, monitored interest-rate risk, capital adequacy, and investment limits, all subject to strict policies.
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