A good resume is all you need to get an interview, right? Wrong. In fact, having a well-written resume is only one of the factors contributing to job search success. The process of landing an interview includes many steps, including networking, completing job applications, and connecting online via social media profiles. One factor, often overlooked by job candidates, is a compelling cover letter. While you may think a cover letter is no longer necessary, you may be surprised to learn that hiring managers and recruiters still prefer to see them – but only if they are well-written and compelling.
Many people don’t bother with a cover letter because recent statistics show that 60% of hiring managers don’t read cover letters. But, one of the reasons cover letters aren’t read by recruiters and hiring managers is because they’re poorly written. A well-written cover letter can help a hiring manger identify qualified candidates among the many resumes they receive. On the other hand, poorly-written cover letters can be extremely long, have regurgitated canned responses, appear too self-absorbed, and are just plain boring. In response, recruiters and hiring managers have become accustomed to ignoring them. Providing a compelling cover letter is one way you can help hiring managers identify you as a candidate of choice.
So, how do you write a great cover letter that’ll get an employer’s attention? It must touch on the company’s pain points and needs. When you’re looking at a job description, ask yourself questions such as:
- What are they seeking?
- What problem(s) do they need solved?
- How can you solve those problems for them?
When you answer these questions in your cover letter you’ll grab the employer’s attention, prompting interest in your skills, which points them to your resume.
If you want to make sure your cover letter is read, keep it short and to the point. Long cover letters drone on and can be very boring. Cover letters longer than one page will be put out with the trash. When writing cover letters, adhere to the five-point cover letter system. Determine the five most salient points you want to make and state each in one or two sentences to capture interest.
Writing this type of cover letter might be a little difficult at first, but this handy quick guide will show you how to write a cover letter that’s worthy of a hiring manager’s attention.
Engage the Reader
Open the five-point cover letter system with an engaging question. Go for something that touches on the employer’s needs. For instance, if the job description you’re targeting is a Senior Graphic Designer, begin with a question that captures the reader’s attention:
Having trouble keeping up with the creative trends or can a passionate Senior Graphic Designer enhance your graphic quality and get you more engagement?
You’re touching on the issues the company is experiencing, which is a common technique freelancers use when they prospect potential clients. Touching on pain points for companies tells them that you understand their issue, and your goal is to get them interested in your cover letter, so you start with a question. That entices them to read the rest of your cover letter.
Provide the Solution
The next step is to follow up the question with the solution, which is you. This is the Return on Investment (ROI) that you’ll want to include, which explains that you’re the solution to their problem. This is the reason they’ll want to hire you, so make sure you put in a positive note that effectively solves their problem:
Within three months, I helped J&B Advertising successfully complete a total marketing campaign for Apple Inc. by providing leadership and high-quality graphic designs just in time for the new iPhone release.
Shoot for a single sentence, or two, but don’t go any further than that. Your ROI follow up solution should be brief, to the point, but strong.
Offer Selling Points (Only One or Two)
While you still want to stay within the “What’s in It for Me” (WIIFM) perspective, this is the part where you talk a little bit about yourself. Be brief and bring up only one or two of your best accomplishments that are relevant to your solution. This value brings the support to your ROI. It provides a backup and gives the reader more in-depth information on how you can give them what they need, and that you’ve already done it for another company.
Staying with the same example above, you’ll want to include your abilities that are relevant to the solution:
My creative leadership and communication abilities enabled me to direct a team of 20, meeting all deadlines with a graphics package of the highest quality.
Incorporate keywords from the job description only where you can. Never try to stuff them in there simply because the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) system picks them up. The content should always make sense and it must be relevant to your solution.
Solidifying Your ROI
Now you need to solidify why hiring you is worth the investment. This ‘hint’ solidifies the reason your ROI is important. You don’t want to talk about yourself here. Instead, focus on the previous information and provide the overall outcome of your efforts. How will a future company benefit from hiring you? Simple. Detail in a brief sentence about how a previous company you worked for benefited from your efforts:
Due to our overall team’s efforts, the marketing campaign garnered $200M in additional iPhone sales, and J&B Advertising was contracted for a second marketing campaign for Apple Inc.
The Call to Action (CTA)
The worst thing to forget with this five-point system is to leave out the call to action or CTA. You never want to send a cover letter like this without a CTA. This area of the cover letter shows that you’re ready to talk. It should never be long, but short and to the point, with you accommodating them for whenever they’re ready to speak.
Some examples are:
Interested? Could we speak?
Sounds good? When may we chat?
Either of these and other variations are perfect for your CTA. Just keep it short and brief, and to the point.
Even though this five-point system is shorter to write, it won’t sell without the cover letter in the proper format. The cover letter must still have all the important parts:
- The header and font-style should match the resume.
- The name of the person of contact should be present.
- All contact information should be correct.
- A final proofread to catch any grammar or spelling mistakes.
This five-point cover letter method can be customized to any job you’re seeking. Just remember to highlight what’s relevant and touch on the company’s needs. It may take a few tries to write a cover letter in this fashion, but using the guide above makes it a little easier to follow.