You know that next job of yours? Yes, that’s right, the really amazing one with the brilliant co-workers, cool boss, and fresh, free snacks in the office vending machine? That one.
You know how you’re going to land it? By quickly showing your future employer that:
a) You’re going to perform incredibly well in this job.
b) You’re insanely likable.
c) You’re really going to fit in around there.
These are the three primary factors that influence the selection process. The person who wins that great job will be the one who shows the decision makers, quickly, that he or she is all three of those things. And you have an amazing opportunity to begin planting these seeds right from the introduction, à la your cover letter.
Most people squander the opportunity. Instead of using their cover letter real estate to their massive advantage, they toss over bland, cliche-filled, or completely-redundant-to-the-resume clunkers. Or worse, they showcase all the things that they want out of the deal, without pausing for a moment to recognize that the company cares a heck of a lot more about what it’s going to get from you.
As a recruiter, it pains me to read most cover letters, because the vast (and I mean vast) majority of them stink. Knowing this should inspire you even further to create a brilliant one. Because, let me tell you, on those rare occasions an amazing cover letter crosses my desk? Mamma mia. It makes my day, and it most certainly influences my interest in its author.
So, how do you pull off a killer cover letter, one that conveys passion and talent and that makes the recruiter or hiring manager’s day? Make sure you do all of these things.
1. Tell Them Why, Specifically, You’re Interested in the Company
Decision makers never want to feel like you’re wallpapering the universe with the same pathetic cover letter. They want to feel special. And so, you need to make it clear that you’re approaching this organization for very specific reasons. And ideally, not the same very specific reasons that everyone else is giving.
Try a high-personality lead in like this: “Having grown up with the Cincinnati Zoo (literally) in my backyard, I understand firsthand how you’ve earned your reputation as one of the most family-friendly venues in the State of Ohio. For 20 years, I’ve been impressed as your customer; now I want to impress visitors in the same way your team has so graciously done for me.”
2. Outline What You Can Walk Through the Doors and Deliver
This isn’t you making a general proclamation of, “Hey, I’m great. I swear!” You need to scrutinize the job description and use whatever other information you’ve gathered about the opening, determine the key requirements and priorities for this job, and make it instantly clear to the reviewer that you can deliver the goods on these key things.
Consider crafting a section within the letter that begins with, “Here’s what, specifically, I can deliver in this role.” And then expound upon your strengths in a few of the priority requirements for that role (they’re typically listed first on the job description or mentioned more than once).
3. Tell a Story, One That’s Not on Your Resume
As humans, we love stories far more than we love data sheets. (OK, I speak for most humans). So, what’s your story? What brings you to this company? Did you used to sing along to all of its commercials as a kid? Did the product make some incredible difference in your life? Do you sometimes pull into the parking lot and daydream about what it would feel like to work there? Tell your story. Just make sure you have a great segue. Random trivia can come across as weird.
Say you’re applying for a marketing job with a baked goods company known for its exquisite tarts and pies. You may want to weave a sentence or two into your cover letter about how you took the blue ribbon in the National Cherry Festival pie eating contest when you were 10, and that you’ve been a pie fanatic ever since. (Yes, this was me, but I actually came in second place. Sigh.)
4. Address the Letter to an Actual Person Within the Company
Not one employee at your future new company is named “To Whom it May Concern,” so knock that off. You’ve got to find a real person to whom you can direct this thing.
This seems so hard or overwhelming, but it’s often easier than you may think. Just mosey over to LinkedIn and do a People search using the company’s name as your search term. Scroll through the people working at that company until you find someone who appears to be the hiring manager. If you can’t find a logical manager, try locating an internal recruiter, the head of staffing or, in smaller companies, the head of HR. Address your masterpiece to that person. Your effort will be noted and appreciated.
And a last, critical factor when it comes to delivering a great cover letter: Be you. Honest, genuine writing always goes much, much further than sticking to every dumb rule you’ve ever read in stale, outdated career guides and college textbooks.
Rules can be bent. In fact, if you truly want that amazing job with the brilliant co-workers, cool boss, and fresh, free snacks? They should be.
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No other professionals in the world are more aware of cover letter standards than in the field of Human Resources and Talent Management. If you are applying for a job vacancy in this industry through job portals or advertised recruitment drives, then you need to put together a cover letter that will get you closer to your dream career.
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Know Your Role
The success of any company lies in the trusted hands of the HR and talent management team. They provide assistance for hiring good people, developing strategic training plans, dealing with employee relations and drawing up policies. Not only that, HR and talent management personnel also need to deal with conflict and understand the job seekers’ market for better hiring processes, hence your cover letter should express your sensitivity and people skills. This is where writing a cover letter for HR and talent management jobs differ from applying for IT sales jobs, engineering jobs or customer service jobs in Singapore.
What’s Your Motivation?
Apart from technical skills, employers will look for your underlying motivations in joining them – your passions. They prove it to the prospective employer that you enjoy the challenges in your work and hold a positive vision for them and the company.
Bring On the Highlights
Did you initiate or develop policies that made a positive impact to your previous company or organisation? Were you involved in any cost-cutting schemes that enhanced efficiency? Did you retain employees and members in a satisfactory manner? Did you give additional training to new staff? These are points that should take centre stage in your cover letter.
If you had a prior designation like HR executive, HR manager, HR Specialist, Staffing manager, Recruiter, HRIS analyst or Personnel supervisor, be sure to include them into your cover letter to provide better insight into your skills and experience.
If you are a fresh graduate, harp upon your qualifications and any management roles that you have played in your co-curricular activities. Describe how your personal qualities are suited for the HR/Talent Management role in the company.
Now that you’ve got all your main points in order, you can start putting them together into a cover letter.
This section will contain the details on how you’ve stumbled upon the job vacancy. Describe this briefly and end the paragraph explaining why you are sending your application. Here’s an example:
|I have read on a jobs portal that you are in need of a HR executive. With my value of being an effective communicator, excellent relationship management skills and five-year experience in compensation and benefit management of a regional IT company, I believe I am an excellent candidate for the vacant position.|
Spell out your accomplishments, knowledge, skills and experience in the next one or two paragraphs and mention how they can be applied in the job you’re signing up for. This is where you elaborate on your unique value points to persuade your prospective employer of your suitability.
|My skills and capabilities are strongly in line with the requirements stated in your job description. For instance, when I started off as a HR assistant, the compensation policies, processes and procedures I developed were integral to the company – we had 100% employee retention that year. Later on, I was able to reduce their annual benefit costs by 10% after intensive reevaluation, record keeping and consistent monitoring. With these accomplishments, the management acknowledged my analytic and strategic skills, two attributes I’d like to share with your company.Moreover, I take pride in my ability to handle co-workers well. Since my years as a Student Council Leader in University, I have always been regarded as a responsible member who can tap upon the potential of people and guide them towards goals. My ability to handle conflict in times of crises became the reason for many strong personal appraisals in my previous places of work. I possess effective communication skills, both in written and verbal forms. Also, I value teamwork, honesty and good personal relations. I respect diversity of characteristics, ideas and preferences in the workplace.|
The closing paragraph is where you should be succinct and thank the reader. Don’t forget to refer the reader to your attached resume or any other accompanying documents.
|I have enclosed my resume for your perusal. I look forward to having an interview with you soon. I can be reached at (your contact number) or (your email address).Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to being part of your company.|
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