The other day, I was asked what you should avoid when trying to make a good impression on a hiring manager. Many things (slang, casual dress, tardiness, typos, etc.) popped into my mind; but, mostly it reminded me of all the horrifying cover letters I have seen in my career. It always surprises me when those who want to get hired submit a half-hearted cover letter…or none at all. That should definitely be avoided, and cover letter brilliance embraced.
The art of the cover letter has been slowly disappearing over the last decade. Electronic submission options make it possible to submit a resume without a letter at all. While a single sentence email may be appropriate AFTER you have an established relationship, it is hardly an introduction to a hiring manager that leaves a good impression. In fact, if it is me, I may just hit delete.
Virtual Top-Grade Paper
It’s a tight job market, so no one can afford to skimp on the finer details of resume submission etiquette. Whether you are asked to write a cover letter or not, it’s a professional expectation. You should write that email like it was written and rewritten, then painstakingly typed onto top quality resume paper. And, please, quadruple-check for typos using both electronic and human resources.
A Little Personality
A cover letter gives you an opportunity to “speak” for yourself, giving your list of work experience context. You need to keep it brief; but, what you say here tells the hiring manager a little bit about who you are…not just where you have been. When all the applicants have similar qualifications, showing a little personality in your cover letter can set you apart and trigger a call back.
A Solution They Cannot Refuse
Besides letting your personality shine, you should make sure the cover letter focuses on the employer’s needs. Research those needs, think hard about your history, then, neatly tie them together so that you can demonstrate how hiring you is a solution they cannot refuse.
Cover letters can be a bit formulaic. When you take the time to find an original and clever way to highlight your skills with a story, a review or how you exceed their requirements, you will get noticed.
Believe it or not, many hiring managers will give more weight to the cover letter than the actual resume as long as you have the requisite skills and experience. Being able to communicate well is a part of most jobs, and what better way to demonstrate that skill than a couple of brief but well-written paragraphs?