If you are applying for numerous positions without ever hearing back, you might be missing some critical elements in your application. Primarily, your cover letter and/or resume may not be doing a good enough job highlighting what makes you an excellent fit for the role.
One of the most common mistakes often made by job applicants at any stage of their career is not dedicating enough time and resources to creating an excellent cover letter.
A cover letter is a way for employers to gain insight into your personality, overall experience and skillset, and general professionalism. Contrary to a resume, which is strictly formatted and succinct, a cover letter is a chance to expand on what exactly makes you an excellent candidate for the role. We chatted with Kate Walling, Founder of Traction Hero, who’s hired dozens of top applicants with an inside look on corporate hiring.
Best practices for highly engaging cover letters
There are a few best practices that I recommend for creating a highly effective cover letter. These best practices include:
Create a purpose
Remember the primary goal of a cover letter is to entice your reader to invite you for an interview. Everything in your cover letter should be fueled by this purpose and extraneous or unnecessary details should be removed. No hiring manager has time to read your life story, so keep your cover letter intentional and succinct with only 350-500 words (maximum one page).
Expand on your resume
Your cover letter is an excellent opportunity to expand on your resume in key areas that you think would be of interest to your prospective employer. Do not waste this space on simply reiterating your resume without including additional context or highlights of your professionalism, skills, or experience.
“Hiring managers are bombarded with hundreds of applicants for their job listings, and it is time-consuming and mind-numbing to go through so many candidates,” says Walling. “This is why it’s important to stand out. Many applicants do not take the time to fully read a job description and make sure the role is appropriate for them. As we have all felt at one time or another, applying for jobs can feel like a numbers game and so the more you apply to the better.
But if you are truly a strong fit for what is written in the job description and you truly want the role, it is worth it to go the extra mile. Customize your cover letter and let the hiring manager know that this is exactly what you do and give examples. You may also record a short video introduction and include a link to it, so the hiring manager can see and hear your passion for the role.”
Customize based on your audience
As a professional applying for higher-level positions, it is important to take the time to customize your resume for each individual position. Copy and paste cover letters are often the first to be tossed into the NO pile and can really harm your chances of remaining competitive compared to your peers.
While it may be time-consuming, your cover letter should be customized based on each job and organization you apply to. I highly recommend using keywords from the job posting thoughtfully in your resume.
It’s not about you
Despite its purpose – getting you a new job – the content of a cover letter should not be all about you. Your cover letter should address the needs of the role and organization you are applying for, and explain how your unique mix of skills, education, and experience is best positioned to address these needs.
Aligning your cover letter around the industry or business needs of your prospective employer will show you understand the environment in which they operate and that you are a forward-thinking team player.
Make it easy to read
Having a cover letter that is challenging to read is a mistake that I see happening far too often for senior-level positions and employees. Your cover letter should be easy to ready with strategic attention to detail given to the formatting, font, and text size. And of course, always make sure to proofread multiple times!
How can you get an exceptional cover letter?
If you are not achieving success with your current cover letter, I highly recommend investing in a professional cover letter service. A professional cover letter service will help to create or edit your cover letter to ensure you are putting your best foot forward. These services are well versed in the expectations of employers and can leverage your experience to ensure you make a good first impression.
Local or industry-specific editing and design services
There are a number of local and virtual agencies that specialize in editing resumes and creating highly engaging cover letters for all sorts of experienced professionals. I highly recommend looking for a cover letter expert who specializes in your industry or extensive history working with clients matching your skill set or experience level.
This is often considered to be a premium service and may cost you more than other more, general services. “Customized and designed resumes are very impressive and show a level of savviness – particularly for marketers and designers.” continues Walling. “You can find beautiful CV and resume templates on websites like Creative Market. But keep in mind that not all fonts are ATS-friendly and your beautifully designed resume could be overlooked if you use a fancy font or simply just not get through to the hiring manager at all. Here is a list of ATS-friendly fonts to keep in mind.”
UpWork is an online marketplace that connects freelancers to business owners and entrepreneurs for a number of tasks and services. Through UpWork, you can ask cover writing professionals to submit their proposals outlining their experience and price quote to write your cover letter. Don’t be afraid to ask for samples of a freelancer’s work to ensure their style of writing matches you and your career aspirations.
Similar to UpWork, Fiverr is an online marketplace where you can work with a freelance writer to write or edit your professional cover letter. As with all online platforms, I encourage you to do a thorough review of a freelancer’s work experience and expertise in creating cover letters in your particular industry.
Fancy Hands is a US-based service that offers access to virtual assistants with a variety of specialties and experience. This easy-to-use service is perfect for busy professionals who don’t have the time to scour job listings or customize their cover letter multiple times. I recommend using this service after your cover letter has been edited by an expert.
A good impression that lasts
No matter which provider you choose, investing in a professional-level cover letter editing service is an excellent strategy for making a good first impression on prospective employers. As a senior-level or executive-level professional, this type of investment is often considered to be par for the course. By keeping in mind the best practices I shared above you are well on your way to creating a highly-engaging and effective cover letter.