What makes an effective cover letter? Do I still need one? Many online applications for jobs don’t require a cover letter any longer like they used to. And I’m sure you are thinking, “Great, one less thing I have to do to apply for this job!” But are you really doing yourself a favor by not taking the extra minute or two to upload some sort of introductory message?
While unemployment remains low, that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t much competition for jobs, especially with the top employers in your area. Simply taking the time to upload that cover letter can pay off big time, separating yourself from the competition.
First off, there isn’t really a right or wrong way to write a cover letter. Different jobs require different cover letters. Applying to be CEO of a software company is different than applying for a job as a dog groomer. So what exactly should your cover letter include?
Effective Cover Letter Elements
- A story relating to why you are a good fit for the job you are applying for.
- What makes up your background, whether at a job, home, or otherwise.
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- If you have a lot of experience in the industry, a description of why you’re passionate about this industry, what makes you tick?
- If you are switching careers, what transferable skills do you possess that would correlate to this new position?
- Your career objective, if applicable.
It’s important to remember that while your resume may get a brief look, your cover letter is where you can really stand out. You have the opportunity to engage a reader and move your application to the top of the stack. Having an engaging opening paragraph that captures the attention of the reader is a great place to start. Think about a book that you have read in the past that you couldn’t put down. Why did it keep you engaged? Was is descriptive? Was it clear what was happening and what the goal was? You can do the same thing in a great cover letter!
A Cover Letter is an Elevator Pitch
In a lot of ways, your cover letter can basically be your elevator pitch. If you had one minute to talk with the CEO of your dream company about working for them, what would you say? How would you sell this CEO on your skills and abilities to help their company grow?
How to Address Your Message
You should do everything in your power to address the message to an actual person. “To whom it may concern” is very generic and vague. use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, whatever means possible to collect a name that you can address your letter to. Most executives, hiring managers, and human resources staff are engaged in social media to attract talent. Finding someone to address the letter to is easier than ever. If you can’t, use a typical greeting: “Hello, my name is…”, then follow the steps above.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to write your cover letter (other than using proper spelling and punctuation.) Understanding that a person reading it will likely have a large say in whether you make it past initial job screenings for a position is huge. A cover letter is still a simple way to make yourself stand out and will help your chances of securing an interview.
Need help with the next step? Learn about interview tips and tricks.