Let’s face it: no matter the size of the city where you live, the job market can be a nightmare.
Smaller cities have fewer employers and that means fewer job openings. And bigger cities have higher populations, meaning there are loads of people looking at the same job openings as you. Big city or small, you’re already up against plenty of competition when looking for a job.
But let’s say you make it through the slush pile and a job recruiter actually picks up your resume: did you know that he or she is likely to spend only 6 seconds looking at your resume before determining whether to read on or toss your CV in the trash?
The lesson here is this: you need to stand out in a competitive job market. If you’re looking for a job and you’re frustrated at the lack of interest, you need to look a step further than your resume/CV: take a good look at your cover letter.
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What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a personalized, well-thought introduction to your qualities, background, and personality. It’s more personalized than a resume. A cover letter is almost like an elevator speech: somewhat more conversational, but still meant to be short and to-the-point. It answers the questions a resume can’t, like: Why do you want to work here? Are you a culture fit? Why should we hire you, and not him or her?
A cover letter typically includes a high-level summary of your background, highlighting key skills and experience that relate directly to the job for which you’re applying. This is different than your resume, which includes detailed job background – where, when, and what.
A cover letter should also accurately reflect what’s posted on job-related social media such as LinkedIn. Ensure there are no inconsistencies – this is a red flag to a future employer when you’re looking for a job.
The Key When Looking for a Job? Passion
Most companies would rather hire an enthusiastic, passionate junior employee than a bored, “I-could-do-this-job-blindfolded” senior employee. Energy is everything.
When you’re looking for a job, it’s imperative that your enthusiasm comes through loud and clear in your cover letter. Include the reason you’re most interested in this particular company or position.
Even better if you can touch on non-professional interests that relate: volunteer positions you’ve held, conferences you’ve attended in your free time, that sort of thing. If you’re applying to be marketing director at an aquarium, share your interests in scuba diving. If you’re applying to be a teacher, share your volunteer work with tutoring kids.
Read your cover letter aloud to a friend or family member and ask them, “does this sound like I’m excited about the job? About the industry?” If they say no, you’ve got more work to do.
Remember, you want to come across as likable, and enthusiasm about the opportunity is one of the best ways to do this.
Highlight Key Successes
Nothing jumps out at an employer like a statement that says you saved your last company $200k in overhead or 80 hours in reworking inventory layouts. Recruiters love numbers: measurable, definable value.
Don’t be afraid to brag a little, either. Many candidates are worried they may come off as arrogant, but the opposite is true: when looking for a job, you need to sell yourself early and often in order to compete with the candidate pool.
Also, try to tie your key successes into what you can add to this particular company. If you’re applying to sell financial services to clients, you may not want to share your record typing speeds (but you do want to share this if you’re applying to be a content writer.) Make sure that your achievements make sense given the role.
Include Key Words
Your cover letter may go through a system that searches for keywords. If this is the case, the recruiter may not even see your application unless it meets the keyword requirements.
But even if this isn’t the case, you still want to ensure that your cover letter has several of the keywords listed in the job description. Recruiters are trained to search for these to ensure that candidates are properly matched to each role.
Read the job description carefully (which you should have done anyway) and ensure you touch on the key concepts. Just don’t overdo it, and definitely, don’t copy and paste from the job description.
Creativity is one of the most important ways to stand out when looking for a job. Different is good – it makes you memorable! For this reason, do not utilize a cover letter template from a word processor. Recruiters have seen thousands of these templates and they can smell ’em from a mile away.
There are plenty of online resources that provide more creative templates, or you could simply draft up your own. Many firms, particularly start-ups or those in more progressive industries (think tech), will love your unique approach.
Consider also the inclusion of a professional head shot. Your LinkedIn page should have one, anyway, and this is an opportunity to show that you’re professional and heavy-hitting in the job market.
Ensure that you don’t use the exact same cover letter for multiple companies: this will damper your enthusiasm and your cover letter will sound artificial.
But it’s ok to use similar cover letters since some of the information about your experience and skill set will remain the same. In this case, it’s very important that you always check your company names before sending. Particularly if you’ve stated the company name multiple times throughout the document. Proofread multiple times. Nothing is more embarrassing – and nothing will get you booted quicker! – than a mishap like this.
On average, every job opening has more than 250 applicants. This is a wide net of competitors! When looking for a job, producing a strong cover letter that demonstrates enthusiasm, experience, and professionalism can only help you in securing an interview.
We can help you with looking good and putting your best face forward, but the rest is up to you. If you’re looking for a job and don’t yet have a cover letter meeting these criteria, put one together and start including with your job applications to set yourself above the rest.