For the first time in a very long time, it’s actually good to be a job seeker. U.S. job growth is strong, and unemployment is on a steady decline. Even with these changes, the search for a job can still be daunting. It’s not easy to differentiate yourself from every other job seeker on the market, and the monotony of filling out online applications can make job seeking extremely exhausting. That’s why having an outstanding resume and tailored cover letter are so important to your success in getting your dream job!
If you’re an experienced job seeker, you may have received tips for writing a cover letter or resume over a decade ago. If that’s the case, you probably need to update some of your strategies for drafting a resume and a cover letter. For example, some seasoned job seekers don’t understand the importance of a cover letter that truly shows your unique experience and talents — let alone how to write a cover letter that stands out from the crowd.
Many job seekers treat cover letters as a necessary evil, and they often ignore the value of this particular application material. They show some effort, but they usually use a template that only gets tweaked very slightly for each application and resume they submit to potential employers. And it’s easy to understand why so many people do that — especially since your resume already details your experiences and establishes your qualifications for the job.
Since the cover letter may seem like it’s just formality, you may be tempted to ignore any tips for writing a cover letter you’ve heard over the years. But thinking of it that way could hurt your chances of getting hired. A good cover letter will help you stand out. It can also encourage the hiring manager to give you an interview, even when your resume may not have, simply because of the detail and personality it demonstrates.
When it’s done right, a great cover letter is like a secret weapon for catching a hiring manager’s attention. Next to your resume, it’s one of the most important, underutilized tools at your disposal. Never underestimate the importance of a cover letter when seeking a specific position.
Here are some tips for writing a cover letter to make yours stand out:
What makes a great cover letter?
First, make sure the cover letter looks like it was written specifically in response to the job ad being answered. It should also address any questions from the job listing that aren’t clear from your resume. This can be accomplished through citing specific examples of the successes in your career. For example, if the ad calls for “strong office management skills,” don’t respond by saying that you are “an experienced office manager.” That should be clear from your resume. Instead, offer details of how the management of your office improved under your leadership at your current and previous positions.
What can a cover letter do that a resume can’t?
If you are new to a particular field, a cover letter can be used to convince the hiring manager that you should get an interview for a position you have limited experience with. One of the most important tips for writing a cover letter is to show how your experience — although not what they are asking for — makes you a good fit.
To illustrate the importance of a cover letter, imagine Taylor is a software salesperson who wants to become a sales manager for another software company. She has no experience working as a sales manager, but she’s one of the top salespeople at her company, and she spent two years in college working as an assistant manager at a local hardware store. She also served as a mentor to two of her colleagues through her current company. Taylor consulted with a career counselor and learned how to write a cover letter that stands out.
In her cover letter, she highlights her accomplishments and explains how her knowledge of software sales, combined with her managerial and leadership experience, can lead the software company’s sales team to success. About a week after submitting her resume and cover letter, Taylor gets a call from human resources asking to schedule an interview. In this situation, her cover letter made all the difference.
Writing your cover letter is an opportunity.
Think of your cover letter as an opportunity to convince the hiring manager into giving you an interview. Directly address the hiring manager’s needs, and make a good case for yourself. You can accomplish this without being sentimental or overly personal, but it’s still a good idea to allow some of your personality to shine through in the letter.
Resumes rarely let much of your personality shine through. They simply list your accomplishments and work history, but they don’t show who you are as an employee. Your cover letter can do that, and that could be the difference between being passed over and getting an interview. That’s the importance of a cover letter.
If you’d like to learn more tips for writing a cover letter, or if you need help learning how to write a cover letter that stands out, contact Resume Pundits for information about our resume and cover letter writing services. Work with the experts at Resume Pundits and get more results!