Want the job? Want the cover letter.

Posted on Posted in Millennial Employment Guide

When you find the one, you just know. You read the job description and it seems to describe you as you are today. Three years’ experience? Check. Certified in power-washing? Check. Deep understanding and love of the cement curation process?  Check and Check. The company wants to be a leader in the construction field and so do you. You need to apply to this job! If you could just get the interview, they would get to know you and definitely love you. What are you going to do to make sure they KNOW you match so well with what they need? You are going to write a personalized cover letter, that’s how. When you find a position you feel is worth that additional layer of TLC, the personalized cover letter is where you can find space to add it all in. A cover letter like this goes the extra mile to show how your qualifications match the position. It can also be a place to show that you have a command of knowledge when it comes to the industry, given your thoroughly researched cover letter. Furthermore, you can identify problems and propose any advantage you might have when solving these problems. The tailored cover letter goes a long way to show that you are heavily invested in the position and can provide real-world solutions to your employer.

So many people bank on you having this mentality so that you won’t bother to apply.

Research is Key

Research is a critical component of putting together a convincing cover letter. When it comes to doing your homework on a company, you want to look at a variety of sources. First, take a look at the company website. Pay particular attention to the mission statement. This phrase should state the goals or the vision the company has for the future. The power of a made –to-order cover letter comes in being able to explain how you align with the company on a grand scale over time. You have to highlight how closely you see eye to eye with how they envision the future. If their vision is to see all stray cats adopted, you need to frame your cover letter in whatever way you must so that you come off as some individual that has a personal stake in a world with no stray cats via adoption. Your cover letter can be a space to show an organization how you have been supporting their mission in various capacities for a period of time. Either way, it starts with knowing their mission statement. Also on the website, you can learn about key personnel and what previous experience they have had.

The next stop on the research train is a news search. You can search google news or the hometown newspaper of the headquarters of the organization you are looking at. Start off by searching for the name of the company. For what reasons have they been in the news? What could you do to make sure there were more or less stories like this? Next, you want to search for the names of key personnel such as the CEO or the head of the department you are applying for. Mentioning any of these findings in your cover letter will show that you are aware of current events in the industry. If you really want to prove your worth, you can use your cover letter to make connections between the needs of the company and the skills you possess. All of these things show the organization you are ready to hit the ground running and make immediate contributions. This document can set you apart from the competition by illustrating that you are the best person for the job right now.

Divide and Conquer

Once you have put together the information you need, its time to learn some skills that will help you write the letter. When you get to actually sitting down and writing the letter, it is important to have all of your research in front of you. Split screen is key here. On one side of your screen, you should see your cover letter. On the other side of the screen, have a web browser with a few tabs open: the job description, and the company website AT LEAST. Any useful information you found during your research  such as social media profiles (of the company or an employee you know), recent newspaper articles or any other source of information about the company, employees, or culture that you can get your hands on. When it comes to information from first hand resources, directly from the company, it important to use the language that they used. Mission statements are one or two sentences that may have spent months going through several committees and iterations before it arrived on the website. Likewise, many of the words and messaging on the website are careful and deliberate communications and using similar language ensures that the organization sees your cover letter talks to their specific mission. Remembering the language is not a reliable enough resource. Using your screen to display both your writing and your research makes it easy to use your research effectively.

This technique is most effective when you have the job description opposite your cover letter. Using the job description, you can use your cover letter to grab the reader by the eyeballs and show them you have the exact skills they are looking for. As you look at the list of duties and responsibilities, look for clues that tell you which are going to be most important in that role. Typically, the most important skills are listed towards the top. Make sure you explicitly state that you have experience doing the duties that the job description shows to be the most vital when it comes to success in that role.  For bonus points, tie this into the research. Ideally, your cover letter can show an organization you are a candidate that has identified a problem or weakness in the organization, come up with a plan for improving this in the company, and that you have proven experience solving problems like this in the past. This is what it means to personalize a cover letter. You personalize the experiences you share with the reader in order to present a potential solution to a problem. You are the solution.

Personalized cover letters get results by doing some leg work for your readers. Specifically, you can make it very easy for someone to envision you working there and solving the problems they are facing today. Putting on your Sherlock cap and doing some research will help you find what to talk about in order to impress. The personalized cover letter shows you can talk their language, literally. When you use the words from the mission statement or job description, you are holding the reader’s hand and ushering them to invite you in for the interview. Next week, we are going to start talking about the interview process, starting with phone interviews, moving along all the way to salary negotiations.

Tell someone else.

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