You see the perfect job posted online and you can’t wait to attach your resume and hit send. Resist the urge. Take the time to create a customized cover letter and it will increase the odds of the hiring manager reviewing your resume. A resume is a historical look at what you have done in the past. The cover letter is an opportunity to focus on the specific position of interest while highlighting your historical and transferable skills to meet their needs. Do not assume that the hiring manager will take the time to “connect the dots” between your experience and their needs. Writing a customized cover letter does that for them.
Focus on Their Needs – the hiring manager has a business need to meet so focus on how you can meet their specific needs. They really don’t care about what you need and want. Be very specific in addressing their needs outlined in the job description and show them how you can address their specific needs.
Highlight Transferable Skills – You may not meet every requirement in the job description but you bring valuable transferable skills to the position. Focus on what you bring and the value it has to them. Maybe you never worked in that industry before but if you have successfully transitioned to a new industry before, leverage that. If you never used the particular software they use but have learned new systems quickly in the past, highlight that.
Be Careful with the use of “I” – The cover is letter is about meeting their needs so be very careful not to overuse “I”. Do not start every paragraph or multiple sentences with “I”. Think about different ways to get your message across. Keep it focused on them.
Do not use a generic letter – Most recruiters and hiring managers can easily recognize a template cover letter. It typically does not relate to the specific job or even the specific company. Don’t waste the hiring managers’ time by sending generic letters. Worse still, avoid the cut and paste errors of referencing the wrong company or position. That is a guaranteed trip to the “no” pile.
Attention to Detail Matters – Be sure your letter has been proofread for spelling and grammar. Most employers will consider it a sample of your business writing. Worse still, don’t cite your attention to detail as an attribute and then have glaring spelling or grammatical errors in the letter. That is a quick route to the “no” pile.
A successful job search is the result of strategic effort. It is not about how many positions you can apply to online. A successful candidate is one who identifies the right positions and then submits a flawless resume and customized cover letter. Further success comes to those who have also networked at the company in advance. Don’t let the lack of a cover letter or a poorly written cover letter prevent you from advancing in the process. If the job is worth applying to, it is worth the time to create a customized cover letter.