One of the most time-consuming — and let’s face: annoying — parts of applying for new jobs is writing a cover letter. While some believe it’s no longer necessary to have this one-pager for all opportunities, others deem it necessary to stand out from the pile.
However, it can be exhausting and frustrating to write and update your cover letter continuously, only to hear crickets from potential employers and recruiters. Rather than crumbling it up and throwing it in the trash, consider making small — yet meaningful! — tweaks to your cover letter so you can score more interviews. Here, career gurus and experts shed insight:
Begin with a story
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of job applications, you probably understand how monotonous it can be to read one right after the other. So when an exciting cover letter breaks through the mold, drawing you in with a captivating introduction paragraph, suddenly, your interest is piqued.
If yours doesn’t, consider reorganizing your flow to begin with a tale, recommends Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. “Opt to tell a short story — something you might use when responding to a behavioral interview question — that describes a time when you overcame an obstacle, handled an issue, or secured a win for the company,” she continues. “The idea is to find a story that allows you to demonstrate you have the soft and hard skills the employer is looking for while grabbing their attention.”
Use the word ‘you’ and ‘your’ more than ‘me’ and ‘I’
Often, professionals are so hyperfocused on wooing the reader; they forget to mention the company at all. An easy way to figure out if you’re spending too much space writing only about yourself is to do a simple search for ‘me’ and ‘I’ and your cover letter.
If you use those words more than ‘you’ and ‘your,’ it’s time for an edit, according to entrepreneur Brendan Heegan. This is important because the interviewer doesn’t really want to know about you, they want to see how you will be an asset to them or their team,” he adds.
Connect to the company’s mission
When you’re scrolling through job boards, there’s a reason one open position catches your eye over another one. Particularly today, connecting the dots between company mission and employee is vital. And if your cover letter doesn’t address how you’re a fit, you’re missing the point.
As lifestyle and career coach Jules Schroeder explains, you should also provide a specific reason about why and how you relate to the brand’s values. This can be done in a few sentences but should be catered to every company.
Find a name
Repeat these three words after Augustine: Find a name. With so much information readily available on the internet, it’s no longer appropriate to begin cover letters with ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear sir or madam.’ As Augustine puts it, they sound impersonal and overly formal, which isn’t the tone you want to amplify. “Instead, take a few extra minutes to figure out who your cover letter should address. If it’s not stated on the job listing, run an online search, look at the company’s website, and search on LinkedIn to find out who handles recruitment for the company or who will manage you, should you land the job,” she advises. “Then, use that name to address your cover letter. It automatically makes you look like a more resourceful, thoughtful, and approachable person.”
Focus on the first two to three job requirements
Sometimes the very task of drafting a cover letter can feel overwhelming. After all, endless bullet points are detailing the role but only so much space to explain your experience. Take a deep breath and direct your attention and effort toward the first two to three job descriptions requirements.
Usually, the most important responsibilities are first, so a recruiter will focus on those, according to AJ Vollmoeller, the owner of Future Force Staffing & Career Services. This tactic will not only make you sound unique but help you earn a call, too. “Pointing out your experience that directly relates to the job requirements in your cover letter makes it nearly impossible for the reviewer to have the need to wonder if you’re qualified,” he adds.
Stay away from assumed duties and personal evaluations
Not sure what this is? Here’s an example from Vollmoeller: you work in customer service, so you write that you’re a great communicator and a people person. “Though these are great qualities to possess, there’s no proof, and it’s a self-evaluation,” he continues. “Instead, use metrics or references like ‘Awarded as the Top Customer Service Rep in my region directly resulting from customer satisfaction surveys.’ Now It sounds impressive because it has validation to it.”
Always end with a call-to-action
Similar to your resume and your LinkedIn profile, a cover letter is a marketing tool. And as you likely already know, an effective email and landing page always has a call-to-action (CTA).
Augustine says always to have a closer: “End your cover letter by mentioning when you plan to follow up on your application — typically one week after the posted close date on the job listing or, if a date is not provided, then one week after your initial application is submitted — and inviting the reader to reach out to you before then, should they have any questions,” she recommends. “This provides you with a solid next step — to follow up on a certain date — and encourages the recruiter to reach out.”