Recently, I did a webinar on how to write a great cover letter. It’s been a frequently requested webinar topic – I think intuitively people know that the style of cover letters has changed, but they need some guidelines or suggestions for content.
If you missed it you can watch the webinar here or I’ll give you the super short Cliffs Notes version of what I shared (in Canada, we called them Coles Notes after the bookstore that sold them). On your cover letter, accomplish these 3 things:
- Target your audience
- Don’t use the “allow me to introduce myself” approach; and
- Above all, communicate how you can help them solve a problem or challenge.
For whatever reason, I got a lot of feedback about the topic. Several people told me it was very helpful (love hearing that) and that they learned something (even more awesome).
I also got some cover letter horror stories – that is, descriptions of some really horrible cover letters that they’d come across over the years. My favorite? The candidate who referred to himself as “extraordinary at most everything I try.” Yikes – makes you curious about meeting him in person, right?
The runner-up would be the candidate who described, in full detail, why she would need the employer to allow her to maintain a certain daily schedule and her need to not work on any holidays. Whoa – it was more like a “demand letter” than a cover letter.
The most intriguing feedback was from a small business owner. Now I happen to think he’s in a rather interesting industry – he sells specialized small brewery equipment. And he has a problem finding good employees. He mentioned he’s been expanding his rather small team, so he’s been looking for people to bring on board.
You may not be the ideal candidate, but you can use the cover letter to SHOW how you’re well-suited or may have specific credentials that the typical candidate won’t have.
When he posted a job opening online, out of the 10-12 responses he received within the first 24 hours, only one was accompanied by a legitimate cover letter. Most just had a “see attached resume” introduction.
“I figure these people are doing me a favor by showing me what type of worker they will be” is his perspective. First impressions still matter – and they start early on in the hiring process, not just when you show up for an interview. While he may not be able to pay an employee a six-figure wage, with any small company, there’s opportunity to learn different roles and to grow with the company.
As a small business owner, he has limited time and resources – so he has to use every single stage of the hiring process to gather information about candidates. In his world, no cover letter hints at a candidate’s laziness and lack of effort. This small business owner won’t dismiss a well-qualified applicant if there isn’t a cover letter – but he will entertain a less-qualified applicant if there’s a compelling cover letter.
My mind jumps to how this applies to all of the individuals who are trying to get their foot in the door. Making a career change? You might be less-qualified, but why not increase your odds at landing an interview with a cover letter? On paper you may not be the “ideal candidate,” but you can use the cover letter to SHOW how you’re well-suited. You may have specific experience or even credentials that the “typical candidate” won’t have.
There are no guarantees, phenomenal cover letter or not, that will land an interview. Your cover letter may be your competitive advantage, however. Take the risk.
I’m Stacey Lane: Confidence Builder. Networking Smarts. Resume Wordsmith. Personal Branding Strategist. Career Coach.
I help individuals with unique backgrounds find their perfect fit and effectively market themselves so they find work that is as interesting as they are.
Contact me to get started!
I invite you to watch my FREE Webinars available online anytime:
Sign up to view “How to write powerful cover letters” here.
In this webinar, you’ll learn:
- The four most common mistakes most professionals make with cover letters.
- Ways to instantly improve your cover letter, even if you’re not a great writer.
- How to use your cover letter to get an interview, especially if you’re not an “ideal” candidate.
- What to say at the end of your cover letter.
- Three things to never, ever include in your cover letter.