Newsflash: your cover letter is not going to get you a job.
Networking, resumes, social media, LinkedIn, headhunters ain’t gonna do it either. Nothing can do it alone.
They’ll help find leads, sure, but each is a piece of the puzzle so a potential employer can see the big picture and decide whether you’re a fit, or not.
What a good cover letter or email can do is get you to the next step: a follow-up email, phone call, or gasp – an interview. You have 15 seconds to capture future boss’s attention – and convince them you’re worth another look. Is your letter doing that?
Whoever is reading your introductory email is busy, so busy, in fact, they’re hiring additional employees. So keep it short, interesting, grammatically correct and typo-free. And don’t retell your resume. That’s your resume’s job.
If you prefer to be tossed into the not-now, not-ever pile, then skip this and keep using the same razor-sharp techniques utilized since your cap and gown days. If you do, let me know how that works for you.
Or instead, make your introductory email interesting. Not fictional, just different than the other 1500 applicants vying for that one coveted position. The goal is to get to the next step where you can reveal a bit more about yourself, and then, a bit more. It’s job hunting flirting per se, leading to perhaps foreplay, but don’t mention that in your letter.
Think I’m too out there? Too extreme? Maybe. But there will be hundreds of applicants that play it safe, and won’t ever get read, because a few brave applicants provided a little taste in the cover note enticing employers to want more information.
Free Advice from Someone Totally Unqualified to Give It …
Other Than It Works For Me
1. One Size Does Not Fit All. Still, trying to fit in your daughter’s skinny jeans? Have you even looked in a mirror lately? Do not try to sell a firm, even a part-time, 5 hours a week counter job, a cover letter you wrote back when those jeans actually fit. UPDATE today with specifics to the job you want. You’re not fooling anybody with cut and paste.
1. Write a personal email cover every time. The intro email should be specific to the job you’re applying for and not a cut ‘n paste. Tweak your favorite note to fit, but do not apply the same boring note to each job. Yes, they can tell.
2. If you know somebody, say so – and don’t be shy about it. Use the subject line of your email; it will get opened. Or in the first line of your email; it will get read. Of course, first ask your contact if you can use their name. If you ask after the fact and get a big-fat NO, yowza, that could be irreparably damaging.
“John Henry” in accounting thought I’d be perfect for this job.
3. Show don’t tell. What you learned in writing (back when schools taught writing and not Mad-Libs) will benefit you here. “I’m a creative thinker.” BORRRRRRIIIINNNGGGGG. “I’m a people person.” Worse. Don’t brag you “think out of the box.” Groan. Instead give a quick, cliché free example, with numbers.
“I redirected the tired PTO magazine and fat-kid cookie dough fundraisers into a community carnival event, netting an additional $5000 for the school, receiving vast press coverage, and people had fun.” Use language like TIRD vs. established to stand out. Won’t work for everybody, but will work for somebody. Perhaps edit the fat-kid comment.
4. PDFs, JPEGs, and .DOCX, .DOC are not your friends. They hate you and will ruin you. Don’t attach documents to be opened unless specifically requested. If your introductory note aka e-cover letter, doesn’t appear in the memo field, you run the risk of incompatibility and waa-laa, DELETE. No questions asked.
5. Avoid United Postal Service. I wrote differently about this once upon a time, but that was then. I know they still come to the end of your driveway through rain and sleet and snow, but if at the time of this reading you’re even thinking of sending a cover letter and attached resume in an envelope with the stamp du jour, forget about it. Not only will the USPS be obsolete if your letter arrives, but the company you’re applying to will as well. I’m just saying… Hand delivering can be cool. But again, risky.
6. Follow directions. Include everything they ask for. If you can’t follow those directions, why should they even look at you? If they ask for salary requirements, don’t write ‘flexible.’ You’re toast. If they ask for three recommendations, include the names and contact information. If they only want certified paralegals and you don’t have it, own up to it.
“I have 15 years paralegal experience at the largest firm in Manhattan, before certification was available. I have the real-life legal experience no certification can provide.”
7. Brag. Now is not the time to be humble. After hearing about part-time marketing job at the Y (formerly known as the YMCA, but going all Prince now), I applied and copied the friend used as a referral. She responded, “You certainly are not lacking in confidence are you?” Ouch. But what’s the alternative?
Now is not the time for modesty. Toot your horn loud and early, if only to get to the next step. (PS. Y called me… didn’t get gig, but they did call.)
There’s just too many of us competing for too few positions to write a wishy-washy, blasé, safe, mundane cover letter. You have one chance to get to the next level. And at each level, you get another chance. Use it wisely.