In the simplest terms, a cover letter should be a charming adaptation of your resume. You’ve provided a clerical list of all the things that you can do, how long you’ve been doing them, alongside a considered index of former employers that are eager to confirm all of the above. Now it’s your job to prove to a recruiter that these achievements were purposed by a winsome firecracker. There are a few ways to go about this; each variation tailored to the industry before your reticle.
Take some time to train your aim, with a series of questions recommended by our friends over at Yale Office of Career Strategy.
- What skills/attributes do you have that match the skills/attributes that an employer wants?
- Why do you want to work for them?
- Why this position?
Because most candidates enter entry-level positions with some form of higher education, firms are adopting new and unique ways of individuating applicants. More times than you’d expect, the killing blow comes down to the professional ethics advertised in an application, as opposed to the depth of credentials. According to a new Learning House survey, nine out of 10 employers report being ready to fill positions with candidates without a four-year college degree.
“If you have most of the skills and abilities needed for the job, but are only lacking the required degree, go for it.”
— Alison Doyle, Careers.com
“Given the skills gap today and record-low unemployment, this makes complete sense,” explained Zoe Harte, senior vice president and head of HR and talent innovation at Upwork. “Our education system is not keeping up with the needs businesses have, and what is most important today should be proof of skills and the ability to deliver results. This also helps to create a more equitable playing field for applicants and will, therefore, move diversity of thought and innovation forward.”
Even if you come across a job listing that prides college education as a requirement, most insiders would advise you to throw your name into the ring anyway. At the end of the day, reason alone does not drive will. Fierce competition demands flexibility from every ring on the food chain. Employers recruiting young professionals right out of college are finding themselves hemorrhaging resources to retrain and replace candidates that were only prepared for the workplace on paper; like a mirage, higher-ups are being forced to re-evaluate what is and isn’t a valuable voucher. In the wake of this irresolution, young applicants are left with two choices, commit to a never-ending hunt for higher and higher education to claim dominance in the pack or find a more tangible way to express efficiency to employers.
So exactly does how does one articulate authority and competence without the aid of pomp and circumstance?
Appealing to empiricism
“Taking a sociology course? Drop it. Read a book. [Today,] the educational system teaches you to memorize, take tests, repeat the information back, you get labeled with a grade, If I asked what you learned two weeks later, the student will probably say ‘I forgot.’ Nothing for nothing equals nothing,” author Stedman Graham told Ladders a few months back.
Throughout the duration of that chat, the decorated author made a point to apostrophize every corner with the power of empirical knowledge. Our collective submission to artificial means of acquiring information has effectively punctured expertise. What we fail to take into account, is employers, on an intuitive level, can tell the difference between competence and aptitude.
“If you have most of the skills and abilities needed for the job, but are only lacking the required degree, go for it. Also, keep in mind that if the degree is listed as “recommended” or “desired” instead of “required,” the hiring manager will be more likely to look at an applicant without the degree.” reports Alison Doyle of Careers.com.
There are a couple of key points in the hiring process that are ideal for neutering the importance of a degree, but none are as crucial as the cover letter. In an efficiently constructed cover letter, an applicant at once illustrates character, motions any relevant ethics, and backs up their claims with anecdotes and professional achievements. Use the tight job market to your advantage. Graham, like many commentators, believes we are in the age of skills, i.e a time wherein recruiters ask: How can your passions help my company achieve its objectives?
Human resource expert, Suzanne Lucas adds: “Are you really getting higher quality employees this way? Or just more educated ones? Is your turnover at an acceptable level, or are you losing people quickly when they land something more in line with why they went to college in the first place?”
A degree imperfectly implies perseverance and responsibility, where your own words can demonstrate it resolutely. With a mixture of composure, personality, and citations, you can elevate the human personal qualities vital to any professional ecosystem. A perfect cover letter mediates on each of the things conveyed by college education and addresses them one by one, on its own terms.
A college degree achieves the following:
- Distinguishes candidate in a sea of other applicants
- Certifies that the candidate has, organization and commitment skills useful to a firm
- Provides tangible evidence that the candidate has experience and knowledge relevant to the position
Of course, there are certain industries that are more stringent about this stipulation than others. In some fields, a clinical representation of attributes is more than enough to satisfy an employer’s appraisal. However, if you’re savvy enough, network enough, and ruminate on your execution enough, you’ll find very few opportunities to be shadowed by locked doors.
Once you’ve decided upon what you would spend your time doing every day if you no longer had to work for a living, find a listing. From the cover letter to the interview, project confidence and offset any diploma-addled skepticism with skills and experience.
Yale Office of Career Strategy explains the fundamental hallmarks that define a strong cover letter below:
- Tailored to the employer and position – makes a connection
- Focuses on 2-3 skills that match the skill set the employer is looking for
- Uses specific examples rather than a string of generalities
- Varies sentence structure is well-written, keeps the reader’s attention and flows well
- Has genuine tone, demonstrating style and personality
- Is confident, not cocky
- Complements, instead of repeats, the resume