The days of spending our working lives in one company are behind us. Technology advances, competitive business, and expanding consumer choice means if you want the perfect career, you’ll need to move between organizations. With the right education, experience, and expertise, you can often find big improvements in salary, benefits, and job satisfaction.
But, before you can do that, you have to get your foot in the door. Despite all the disruption happening in the business world, the way we apply for jobs is frustratingly familiar! See a job posting, write a cover letter, send a resume, get to interview, impress the heck out of them, and hope for the best.
Now, while we’re not experts in how to write a kick-ass resume (although this guy is) or being utterly fearless and impressive in your interview, we do know a thing or two about putting an amazing cover letter email together. Read on, for the SaneBox Scoop.
Make sure you’re qualified for the job
This might sound painfully obvious, but before you even think about writing a cover letter, make sure you’re properly qualified for the job. If they have specific requirements, check that you meet all of them. Despite having a dazzling personality, if they need you to have an MSc, and you’re just sitting on a BA, they’re not even going to take a second look at your application. You don’t want to waste yours (or their) time, so check and double-check you’re the type of person they’re looking for.
According to Workopolis, “Employers have told us that sometimes as many as 75% of applicants for a given role aren’t actually qualified to do it.” Make yourself proud, be one of the 25%. Do it!
Read and re-read the job ad posting— then read it again
Go through the job ad posting line by line. Make sure you understand specifically what they’re looking for. As you read through, take notes on how your experience, skills, expertise, and education helps you meet those requirements. Believe us, those notes can really help you stand out, and we’re going to be coming back to them. Don’t skip your homework, now.
Think about the perspective of the HR person or hirer
According to some stats, the average corporate job posting gets around 250(!) applicants, with the first ones coming in within four minutes of the ad being published. The poor HR person is seeing hundreds of applications and has to make a quick choice on exactly who they’re going to look at twice, shortlist, and eventually invite for interview.
This means you need to stand out—here are the basics of doing that.
Never use a form cover letter—really, never ever. Recruiters can spot these from 50 feet away (they’re like hawks, hawks with binoculars).
Customize your cover letter for every role—tailor it for each job ad.
Get to the point quickly—they don’t have time for rambling.
Stand out—show them what you’ve got, and why you matter.
Be audacious, be brave, be confident.
Go through your notes and pull out the three or four most important points
Take the notes on the job posting you made earlier. Once you’ve got your notes together on what you could bring to the role, go through them and pick out the three or four most important points. You can work these out as follows:
Do they show you going above and beyond what might have been expected from your role?
Do you have cold, hard facts to back things up? Statistics and figures are best.
Did you use an innovative approach that solved a big problem?
Can you point to areas where you collaborated across teams and departments?
Do you have truly unique skills, talents, or approaches that make you an ideal candidate?
What have you done that can solve the problems of the hiring company?
You should develop a good instinct for what’s going to matter to the recruiter. Remember, speak to the job posting, highlight why you’re the best choice, and identify three or four key factors that show why you’re awesome.
Work out what the hiring company’s problems are
This is one of the best things you can do to get noticed. You see, businesses don’t hire “just because.” They hire because they need to solve a problem. They aren’t selling enough widgets or they need someone who can develop a new, competitive product. They’re expanding and they need to handle new business, or customers are complaining they’re not being dealt with properly.
Read between the lines of the job ad and understand why they’re hiring and what problems they need to solve. That’s going to be your secret weapon.
Research the business
Do your research. Find out what the hiring business does, its niche, its competitors, its market placement, its challenges and successes.
Address the hiring manager or recruiter by name
If you can find out the name of the hiring manager or recruiter, start with that. Sometimes, their name will be obvious from the email address—if it isn’t, try giving the business a call and asking who you should address the email to. Using their name will instantly create a tiny connection.
Get your email subject line right
In the email subject line include your name, the job role you’re applying for, and any special references the job ad asks you to include. Don’t be tempted to put anything else in there unless the ad specifically requests it.
Write your cover letter email
Here’s what you need to put in your cover letter.
Start with a greeting, by name.
Tell them why you want to work for the business in a sentence or two. Be enthusiastic and direct.
Explain your value to the company—this is where your notes come in.
Tell them how you are going to solve their problems and how you’re uniquely placed to do so.
Highlight the three or four key points together with supporting facts.
Explain exactly how you will contribute to the company, tell them what you will do. Use your research on the business to support these statements.
Remember to sell yourself, it’s fine to be slightly audacious.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions—the best cover letters often start a conversation.
You can use links and URLs in your email if they add useful additional context.
Don’t just repeat what’s on your resume.
Ask for an interview, be bold.
Close with a thank you and tell them when you will follow-up.
Proofread your cover letter—then proofread it again
Recruiters will use any reason to discard an application, and one of the most common is typos, spelling errors, or grammar mistakes. Proofread your letter, then give it to someone else to proofread. Then proofread it yourself again. Don’t let any gnarly grammar or spelling mistakes sneak through.
Attach your resume and send!
This is it—what you’ve been building towards. Attach your resume, and send, send, send!
Sample cover letters
Here are some good examples of strong cover letters. Have a read through and adapt to a style you like.
If you’re a SaneBox user (and why wouldn’t you be?) don’t forget to use the super-handy SaneReminders tool to remind you to follow up if you don’t get a reply.
Oh, and the very best of luck, we know you’ve got this!