In this post I explain why not having a cover letter could be holding recruiters back from contacting you, and exactly how to write a cover letter that gets noticed and will help your application go further.
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Is A Cover Letter Even Necessary?
You’d be surprised at how many candidates miss this crucial step in the application process. They don’t send a cover letter! Is a cover letter really necessary you may ask? My answer is always a resounding YES! Especially when companies ask for it in the job posting (which I always do), failing to send a cover letter signals to me that:
1. The candidate didn’t read the job post clearly;
2. The candidate doesn’t know how to follow directions, so how will they follow directions as an employee?;
3. The candidate is just mass applying to jobs hoping one will stick that they don’t take the time to personalize their applications.
Even though according to this article by Jeff Lareau on LinkedIn, 60% of employers don’t read cover letters, I don’t know any company that doesn’t expect one. So just write one! This is another chance for you to sell yourself.
How I Screened Candidates As A Recruiter
Here are the steps I took as a recruiter when looking at applications through my ATS (Applicant Tracking System). I would:
- Prioritize applications that are a match from descending order (100% match downwards).
- Skim through resumes to check out where the candidate has worked, how long they were there for, whether there were any gaps in employment, academic history, volunteer work, certifications and designations. I make note of any candidates that seem like they match what we are looking for and create a “Yes”, “Maybe” and “No” pile.
- Check out their cover letter. If the candidate doesn’t have one, they go to the bottom of the “Yes” pile. I would still consider them if the other candidates who followed the application process properly weren’t a good match.
Don’t make the mistake of getting placed in the bottom of the “Yes” pile. You’ve come that far! Write a cover letter that will get noticed and have the recruiter contact you for first steps! Don’t know how? Let me walk you through the steps.
Most Cover Letters Are Pretty Much The Same
Most of the cover letters I read follow the same formula:
Candidate expresses how excited they were to find X job posting at your company. They provide a summary of their experience and academic achievements, then say they can be contacted at your earliest convenience through different mediums.
Pretty standard, but honestly, really boring. My advice? Add your personality to it! You can still write a professional cover letter by including your voice to it, and that’s how you’ll stand out.
6 Steps To Making Your Cover Letter Stand Out
I’ll never forget the first time I read a cover letter that made me sit up and take notice. This candidate stood out so much, I called her right away, set up a phone interview, and recommended her to the hiring manager. She went through a few face-to-face interviews, completed reference checks then was hired, all in a matter of a week. When I talked to her, I told her it was her cover letter that made her stand out from the rest. The job she applied for? An entry-level receptionist role which typically garners hundreds of applicants. I was so intrigued, I broke down her cover letter into a specific formula:
STEP 1: Sound Like A Human With A Personality
Make the cover letter sound conversational, not robotic. After all, you’re a human being hired by a human. Other than knowledge and skills, hiring managers hire for fit with their team and the organization. Managers want to be able to picture you working with everyone. Show them who you are by injecting splashes of your personality within your cover letter.
STEP 2: Customize Your Cover Letter
Like your resume, your cover letter should 100% be tailored to the job and company you are applying for. When I worked for Mercedes-Benz, I had a candidate who wrote in their cover letter that they were excited to be applying to BMW. Big No-No. I didn’t even bother reading the rest and immediately put the candidate in the “No” pile.
STEP 3: Find Out Who The Recruiter/Hiring Manager Is
Take the extra step of personalization by finding out who the recruiter is for this role. Most roles are now posted in LinkedIn, and you can easily find out who the recruiter is. If not, find someone in the company you can address the letter to. Do not make the mistake of writing “Dear Sir or Madam” as an opening. Surprisingly, I get this a lot! Makes me shake my head every time.
STEP 4: Add A Few Responsibilities From The Job Posting
Take two or three of the job responsibilities listed in the job posting and write about your experience with each, and if possible, what achievements resulted from your direct actions. In other words, how were you able to help the company.
STEP 5: Show Enthusiasm
Finish off with the best way to get a hold of you by showing enthusiasm and genuine interest.
STEP 6: Proofread!
Also like your resume, have someone else proofread it before sending it out. Your cover letter should have zero spelling and grammar mistakes.
Sample Cover Letter
Want to see what the above 6 steps look like in action? Enter your details below to subscribe to my newsletter to receive access to a FREE Sample Cover Letter Download.
You can see in the cover letter that it’s laced with personality, the candidate is writing as if they are speaking directly to me, and not only are they telling me they are the perfect candidate, but through examples, they’ve shown me why.
Stay Tuned for More!
I hope this post has given you the inspiration you need to write that cover letter that will get you noticed by a recruiter. Let me know in the comments below if you tried my suggestions and how it turned out for you.
Need extra help? I’ll be launching a Career Services section to My Favourite Life in the near future to help you and candidates like you, land your dream career.
In the meantime, check out the rest of my Career Series Blog posts, and don’t miss out by subscribe to my blog right away!
Until next time, stay healthy and safe my friends.
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Tiffany Benjamin is the Founder and Owner of My Favourite Life. The Career Services Division of MFL aims to provide services, products and information to those who are just starting their careers or are thinking of transitioning to another role.
Tiffany has almost 20 years of Human Resources experience, currently as a Regional HR Manager for a large automotive company.
Throughout her career, Tiffany has recruited, hired, counselled and coached thousands of candidates, employees and Managers and therefore understands what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for in their ideal candidates.
Tiffany found her dream career and is passionate about helping you find yours.