Job Hunt 4 – The Cover Letter
Now that you have an amazingly polished resume, and your internet persona is squeaky clean, it’s time to cover the dreaded cover letter!
There are typically three methods of thought to cover letters:
- Have a boilerplate cover letter that you send out with every single resume.
- Have a carefully, custom written cover letter for each position that you are applying to.
- Who cares about cover letters, we live in the age of the internet!
Personally, I fall in between options 2 and 3 – but I want to quickly address option 3.
A majority of people think that cover letters are no longer necessary because we have tools like LinkedIn which can showcase us in a little more professional light.
However, there is something that you have to realize about resumes and cover letters. There is a part on most job applications that reads like this “must have good verbal and written communication skills”.
Obviously, if they put it on the job description, it’s got to be important right?
“But Onesheet, how do I show these companies that I have good verbal and written communication skills?”
To which I can only reply with – “By having a very well put together, grammatically correct, and engaging cover letter and resume!”
Hang on, I’ll give you a moment to collect your mind from the floor.
Yes, your resume and cover letter, the two most important things you need in getting a job (besides punctuality, politeness, an engaging personality, etc) do more than act as a list of all the places you’ve worked in your life. They actually show the company that you are applying to work at that you can actually read and write like an adult. Weird!
That being said, a cover letter won’t be required for every single job that you apply to. However, knowing how to write a cover letter will allow you to organize your thoughts a little more clearly with how your experience will help you excel in the position that you are applying to.
So now that we’ve determined why a cover letter is important, which way do we go? Do we write a boilerplate cover letter that we send out to every Tom, Dick and Harry employer out there? Or do we take the time to write something custom and unique for each individual job that we apply to.
It’s honestly a bit of both.
While the content that you write in your cover letter should 100%, absolutely be custom and unique for each job – the structure of your cover letter should be uniform.
Think of your resume like the night’s sky. There are lots of different stars in the night sky, just like there are a lot of different pieces of information on your resume. Now, if you’re an aspiring astronomer you’re able to notice the different patterns in the stars. Orion, the Big Dipper, Litter Dipper almost anyone can see when they look upwards. They are the standards. However, every once in a while new constellations will appear in the night that you aren’t familiar with. To figure out what those constellations are, you’re going to consult a map. The same principle works with your cover letter and resume.
Your resume is the night’s sky filled with stars, and your cover letter is your map.
Your cover letter should effectively and concisely help the reader connect the dots of your resume by explaining how your previous work experience applies to the current position that you are applying for.
When you are writing your content I want you to think of your career like you’re telling a story. We know that stories normally have 3 parts, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your cover letter needs to have the exact same pieces in it.
This is usually the hardest part about writing a cover letter. Figuring out how to start it and what to include. So let’s at least take half of the work out and give you a format that you can write any cover letter in the world with.
Let’s break this down and get a little more in detail.
[Date] – make sure you are using the date of the day you are applying for the job. Don’t use a date from 2 weeks ago or 2 years ago. Be current!
[To whom it may concern] – unless you specifically know the exact person that you are sending this cover letter or resume to do not use the word “Dear”. In fact, don’t use “Dear” at all. You aren’t an 80 year old grandparent. If you know who you are sending the cover letter to address them as Mr. or Ms., if you don’t know who you’re sending the cover letter to write To whom it may concern.
[Intro] – This is always my hardest portion of the cover letter to write, simply because this portion makes you use the most creativity out of the whole process. In the intro of your cover letter, what I have found works best is showing that you understand the industry that the company works within, as well as have a loose understanding of the job that you are applying to. This might mean a little research needs to be done to learn if you are entering a new field, but the effort will pay off greatly when you get into the interview.
I’m going to show you a couple of examples below of cover letters that I’ve written, just the first paragraphs to start, so you have a better understanding of what I’m describing.
Example 4 – OK this one is a funny cover letter. The company is based out of downtown Chicago, Jellyvision, and they make the game You Don’t Know Jack. They had specifically requested a cover letter that would be eye catching and really show that I could get people laughing. This is what I came up with. I garnered me an interview – but I decided not to pursue because I live in the burbs and didn’t want to travel downtown.
[Relevant Work Experience Paragraph 1]: This is where you start to show how your work experience is relevant to the position that you are applying for. It doesn’t have to be the entirety of the position, maybe just one or two points to start, but as you write you’ll be able to connect more and more dots.
[Relevant Work Experience Paragraph 2]: This paragraph is optional! Leave this paragraph for rollover points you’d like to stress regarding your background. Keep the same energy and tone of paragraph 1, but add in a couple more points you feel like you just absolutely have to stress.
[Closing Paragraph]: This is a big one. This one is so important. In the closing paragraph you have to be able to really drive the message home. You’ve got to make an impact, give the reader a reason to want to flip the page and look at your resume. Yes, that’s right, they haven’t even looked at your resume yet. Your ultimate goal is to get the reader so impressed by your cover letter that when they look at your resume they say “Wow, they are qualified”, or have them say “I see what they are saying, and I like what I’m seeing, but I want to have a call with them to gather more specific information.”
That’s really all there is to it. That is the absolute goal of a cover letter.
Now that you have the format – and you understand what each paragraph needs to have to be impactful – it isn’t as hard to go back and write custom cover letters. Once you start connecting the dots of how your current position applies to the position you’re applying for – almost anything can become a great experience point.
One last thing regarding cover letters. If you are applying to the job via a job portal – there will be a specific place where you can enter your cover letter in. If you know the person and are sending them your resume via email – just make the cover letter the body of your email and then attach your resume. It’s redundant to write an email, then attach your cover letter and resume.
I hope this helps everyone with writing up cover letters that really pack a punch! If you have questions feel free to leave them in the comments section below or on the Facebook page!