How To Be Amazing At….Developing A Great Cover Letter
Updated: May 12
Cover letters say a lot about a person. Occasionally they aren’t needed, but when they are, it is important to put care and attention into them. They are one more way to provide your great story.
Accuracy is key. Many times, as a Recruiter, I have been reading a really good cover letter, only to see my competitor’s name listed in the body of it instead of the organization I’m recruiting for. This tells me that there has been a severe lack of attention to detail. I also now know that the letter is highly boilerplate and my organization is just one of many of interest to the person. Yes, we already know that on an intellectual level, but we like to think that people are specifically excited about the opportunity we have. That doesn't mean a boilerplate letter isn't helpful. No one wants to reinvent the wheel every time there is a need for a cover letter but customizing it to the target audience shows an added layer of care.
A cover letter should be:
- short; four manageable paragraphs at most;
- customized to the organization;
- provide a brief overview of why we are applying;
- showcase what we can offer;
- demonstrate an understanding of the organization and the role.
I have read thousands of cover letters. Cover letters that quickly highlight what a person can bring to the organization are the absolute best. They let me see that the person is enthusiastic and has a solid thought process. It also shows that they have spent some time researching. They have the added benefit of making me excited to read the c.v./resume.
On the other hand, I might review a resume first, and then look at the cover letter to see if it is consistent with the background, skills and knowledge that have been displayed in the c.v./resume. The letter gives a voice to the more neutral tone of the resume.
I know of recruiters who will throw out a candidate on the basis of one typo. Typos are low hanging fruit when comparing a number of resumes. When there are a series of typos, that is definitely a problem. Never, ever trust spell check to carry the day. Do trust a friend, colleague, or family member to check over for spelling and, while they’re at it, for content.
Ask them for brutal honesty: would they reach out for the next phase if they had a position available? Why or why not?
There are so many resources and templates on the internet to help develop cover letters. That’s great and it is highly encouraged to take advantage of this accessible information. These templates should be a starting point to be built upon so that the real person can shine through.
There is nothing more exciting for a Recruiter than to see a person whose self-marketing package matches the position required.
It is fine to mention in a cover letter what the organization can do for you, but the better bet is to mention what you can do for the organization.
Is there a topic you would like to see covered for yourself, for your friend, for your family member?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.