You want to know about cover letters? First let’s talk about… speed dating.
It’s a modern concept that involves equal numbers of men and women in a room. Using a round-robin format, each man and woman get a chance to meet for a short time — usually between three and five minutes. This method is designed to let every person put on a brief “presentation” in an effort to earn the opportunity to begin a courtship or longer-term relationship with another individual.
But this overall approach to selecting candidates has always been used in the business world. In other words, job searches are like “speed dating” between employers and applicants. And what’s the “brief presentation” in this simile?
Your cover letter.
See how important it is? Your chances of getting a job can range between fantastic and nonexistent — all based on whether an employer likes your cover letter. So it had better be solid, informative, and distinctive.
Here are 10 tips on how to crush your next cover letter:
- Customize it to the employer. Yes, that means you won’t be able to simply cut and paste one cover letter to another. But companies and jobs are not homogeneous so your cover letter can’t be, either. State in your cover letter why you want to work for that company. (And for God’s sake, don’t address it To Whom it May Concern or Dear Sir or Madam. Get a name. It’s not that hard to find.)
- Mention connections. Name-dropping is welcomed in cover letters. If you know someone at the company (or just met them recently), include the individual’s name in the cover letter. Employers prefer to hire “known quantities,” and if they think you already have a connection to the company, your resume may be moved closer to the top of the stack.
- Brevity is important. Cover letters should never be more than one page; minute details are for your resume. A few paragraphs are all you need (especially if they contain online links to more information, like your portfolio or other body of work). Job seekers don’t like reading lengthy cover letters any more than you do.
- Exude confidence. Being wishy-washy or desperate is verboten; employers don’t like to hire those people. So put yourself on equal footing with the company when you compose your cover letter. After all, you’re just as important to them as they are to you.
- Mention why you picked them. Tell the company why you’re applying there instead of just any place that will cut you a paycheck (even if that’s true). Discuss what you find attractive about the employer and what you feel its strengths are. As with speed dating, flattery goes a long way.
- Brag a little. Tell the company what your strengths are. If possible, provide tangible evidence to back up your claims. Mention all of your qualifications. Provide relevant references. You don’t have to be a pretentious jerk, but you shouldn’t be modest either.