A few weeks back, I wrote an article on resume tips and tricks. A few of you reached out and asked me about cover letters. In particular, the main questions were: 1) Are cover letters still relevant in 2021? And 2) How can I write a cover letter that actually compels the reader to advance your application to the next round?
To answer the first question: Are Cover letters still relevant in 2021? Yes, they are! Based on my experience as a former TA leader, they provide relevant information to managers and many recruiters to differentiate for equally qualified candidates.
But before we dive into the next question, let's understand what a cover letter is and is not:
A cover letter is a ONE-page doc of 250 to max 450 words that summarizes why you are a good fit for the position and the company.
A cover letter is an addition/supplement to your resume that tells a story.
Your resume is about the facts, but your cover letter is meant to convey more of your personality.
A cover letter is NOT a substitute for your resume.
A cover letter is NOT your life journal.
Whether we like it or not, the reality is that cover letters are here to stay at least for the time being. Regardless of how you feel about them, most companies will require some version of it.
How to make a kick-ass awesome, must-read cover letter? Keep reading!
There are a lot of articles on the more tactical features of a cover letter. I will surely touch upon some of these later, but first, let's understand that a darn good cover letter will talk about how your experience and skills meet the job requirements, and more importantly, WHY you are the right person for the job.
Use Tactical Storytelling
As you all know, I'm a big advocate of storytelling overall when interviewing and job searching. When it comes to cover letters, I like to use what I call tactical storytelling: To describe how you have added value in past roles in a concise yet clear way and how it aligns with the current opportunity.
Storytelling also can convey your work style and personality, which are two things that hiring managers also deeply care about. So make sure you read the job description carefully and identify the top 2-3 primary responsibilities. Then dig back in your past for one story that illustrates this.
Here is an example; let's say this is Demand Gen Director role that is looking for someone that can be tactical as well as strategic, deal with uncertainty while being highly collaborative:
"In my previous role as a Demand Generation Expert at XYZ Inc. I handled the demand generation pipeline through ads, managing a monthly google ad budget of $XXX,000+ leading to a pipeline conversion of x%.
Being the sole lead digital marketer at the company, I enjoyed rolling up my sleeves and wearing many hats. Shifting from tactical to strategic, I conceptualized and led the ad creation & management process end- while cultivating a "collaboration first" team culture within the marketing team."
It's short and to the point, yet the story conveys exactly what the job description entails.
Praise is very important and often is overlooked. Don't forget to mention why this company or team is your top choice. Yes, it's a fact that we are in an employee-led market. However, the most sought-after companies are going to have plenty of applicants to go about. So it would help if you sprinkled a bit of praise- this will make your cover letter stand out on top.
Depending on your seniority level, you must get familiar with the business model. I always like to suggest you go back to something like the product or services page, values or the culture page, or google. Whatever is the case, do your research.
Here is an example:
"I really appreciate how Company XYZ aims for creativity for all its product lines, creating market-leading products. As someone that likes to think outside the box, I truly believe that Company XYZ will be a great match."
Again if you do your search right, the reason to join a company will come quickly.
Tell them you are excited to chat.
Always end your cover letter with what marketers define as a "call to action." Besides thanking the readers for taking the time to review your document, the last sentence of that last paragraph should be a clear "ask" for the hiring manager to contact you:
"Thank you for reading this cover letter, and I hope I can help Company XYZ make the most out of their ____ initiatives. I look forward to further discussing in detail how my previous success at XYZ Inc. can help you achieve your team/ company goals. You can reach me at____"
As you can see, this is a solid example of a nice wrap-up with a clear call to action.
To summarize, there are many tips out there that will help you go deeper into the details, but I hope that with these three tips, you get the gist of how to create a cover letter that stands out, avoiding the ill-fated application graveyard.
On a final note and regarding job hunting, remember there are many considerations and moving pieces. Your resume and cover letter get your foot in the door, but it does not guarantee complete success. That's why I always like to recommend learning to play the long game and have a solid job-hunting strategy. If you need some help with the latter one, I'm here to help. To schedule a free consultation with me, please click on this form.