Most hiring managers are busy. Before the hiring process even begins, they are likely juggling too much. When they get to the point of being ready to bring on new talent, they must then juggle the recruitment process with their day-to-day responsibilities.
To allow the process to run as smoothly and quickly as possible, hiring managers sometimes enlist the support of a recruiter or the human resources department.
Prior to the beginning the search process, the hiring manager will share a list of attributes and desired skills they want prospective candidates to possess. The recruiter or human resources representative will then quickly narrow candidates by reviewing resumes, cover letters, referral documents, social media profiles or through screening interviews.
I have been a hiring manager for 16 years, and over the course of this time, I have reviewed thousands of cover letters. Most have been dull, but some have been captivating, inspiring me to give the candidate a closer look.
To ensure you stand out from the crowd, I recommend you these 8 tips for the best cover letter for job application to land your dream job:
1. Read the Application Guidelines
While most positions require a cover letter, some employers will explicitly tell you what they want to see in the cover letter.
For instance, some companies will ask you to document relevant experience, and some may ask you to detail how you might approach your initial 90 days with the company.
The point is there is no such thing as a standard cover letter, so read the guidelines or application instructions thoroughly before you begin crafting your cover letter.
2. Avoid Making the Letter All About You
As much as you want and need to highlight your accomplishments, the cover letter should be a good blend of who you are and what you can offer.
You want to quickly summarize relevant experience, while also speaking to how your candidacy and employment will meet the company’s needs now and in the future.
3. Acknowledge Why You’re Interested in the Company, Not Just the Position
Everyone wants to be wanted for who they are, not what they can offer. Companies are no exception.
Culturally-aware executives want to hire people who have a genuine interest in the company’s mission, not just the vacant position.
Many companies place a higher premium on mission-alignment than they do on talent. This is key because a talented person who does not buy-in to the company’s mission and vision will ultimately become a hindrance to growth and may adversely impact the company culture.
Further, the danger of coming across as “just looking for a job” is hiring managers have no indication how long you will stay with their organization.
Most managers want to gamble on someone who they reasonably believe will remain with their company for a minimum of a couple of years, but much longer if possible.
4. Speak to What You can Offer to the Company
The cover letters that catch my attention are the ones that speak to what a person can bring to my company.
While I am interested in candidate’s background, I am also interested in the value-add they bring to the organization. If a hiring manager wants a list of accomplishments or work history, they can scan the resume.
The cover letter should offer a broader glimpse into the candidate and what they offer the organization.
5. Mirror the Company’s Language
Prior to drafting a cover letter, go through your prospective employer’s website. Check out their press releases, annual reports, white papers and other material to get a sense of the language they use and how they talk about their work.
Once you understand or have a good sense of company vernacular, begin working on your cover letter. Mirroring the words and phrases the company uses signals that you understand the industry you are seeking to enter which is a bonus for many employers.
6. Customize Your Letter
If you are mirroring the language of the company to which you are applying, you will need to tailor or customize your cover letter.
Customizing your letter gives it character. If you use a standard template for cover letters, the lack of effort you invest in presenting yourself to the prospective employer will show.
More serious candidates who take the time to write customized letters will undoubtedly have the upper hand.
Besides, there is nothing worse than using the same standard letter for all openings, only to mistakenly send the wrong letter to the wrong employer. The bad impression may be impossible to overcome.
7. Copy-Edit Your Letter
It is essential to copy-edit your cover letter before submitting it for a position. This is one of the easiest things to overlook, and it is one of the fastest things that will cause you to be disqualified during the screening process.
When hiring managers, interview screeners are reviewing multiple candidates, they look for quick and easy ways to narrow the applicant pool. Many will set aside a resume, cover letter or writing samples with errors on them. And they rightly should.
If you don’t exercise attention to detail in catching typos or grammatical errors when applying for a position, a hiring manager has no reason to believe you will apply diligence once employed with them.
8. Include Contact Information
Once you write a compelling cover letter, make it easy for the hiring manager or recruiter to contact you.
In your signature, include your phone number and email address. In the event, your cover letter is separated from your resume, the recruiter will not have to go digging for how to find you.
9. Put the Letter Away for a Day or a Few Hours
Without fail, I am always surprised by how much my writing improves when I take the time to put my writing away for anywhere from several hours to a day or more.
I catch typos that I inadvertently missed during the initial review, and I find new and more succinct ways of making my point. I can cut extraneous words and phrases, which results in punchier lines and more impactful sentences.
Cover letter writing is no exception. Try to write your cover letter and put it away for a minimum of a few hours and a maximum of a couple of days. You will not regret how distance improves your copy.
The Bottom Line
While it may appear there is a lot to do prior to submitting cover letters, the bottom line is to apply as much thought and attention to detail as possible.
Doing this will place you several steps ahead of the competition positioning you to land the dream job you have always imagined.