How to Craft a Winning Cover Letter to Make Yourself an Irresistible Job Candidate

“Go out of your way to make an outstanding first impression.”

Robert Cheeke

Making a good first impression is not something that is only going to occur when you meet your potential employees at the first interview. They have already gotten a glimpse of your magnificence from your cover letter and resume –that’s why you got the interview in the first place. Your words have gone out in your stead and are the dangling carrots signaling your irresistibility as a job candidate. You want to put your best foot forward with the recruiter and that all comes down to your ability to craft a compelling cover letter which will grab people’s attention. Brand storytelling is all the rage at the moment –you are a brand, and you have to find the right way to tell your unique, riveting career story, so they will want to meet you in the flesh.

Will My Cover Letter Even Be Read?

Many people are convinced that hiring managers never read cover letters. This is simply not the case. However, they might stop reading the ones that miss the mark. You have to pique their curiosity from the first syllable. You want to prevent them from scanning your cover letter and instead be tempted to read it from start to finish! You must ALWAYS send a cover letter. Not sending one is a loud signal that you don’t want the job as you have not put in the necessary time to introduce yourself properly.

A captivating cover letter needs to strike a good balance between what you wish to do in the future and how this job is the perfect vehicle for your career goals. You must be able to show how your vision for your life is going to enhance the company in some way. This means of course that you will need to find out everything you can about the company so you can find points of alignment between your experience and what they are looking for in a candidate.

Getting Past the ATS Gatekeeper

You are going to be searching for that point of commonality that shows the hiring manager/employer how you are the answer to their current pain points. You won’t be able to rely on your confident body language, firm handshake, open smile and well-groomed demeanor –you will first have to get through the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) gate with a well-written sentence.

NOTE: ATS is the automated software that ‘reads’ your resume looking to see if you match the job description, so be sure to always use key phrases from the actual advert in your cover letter and resume. You must ensure both are ATS complaint if you want to get into the next round.

Finding the Right Format

It always feels like an impossible challenge to surmount –writing the perfect cover letter. Your first task will be to decide on the “purpose” format you are going to use like a: traditional, networking, direct mail or pain point cover letter. You might need to put in some additional research to unearth the most appropriate goal for it.

Yes, you want to be able to add the keywords and phrases that talk back to the original job advertisement, but you want to set the right tone for the cover letter. If it’s an innovative start-up that oozes creativity, then match their online ‘speak’ you have found on their website. If it is a traditional banking environment, you want your cover letter to reflect a particular formality. Let your writing style match the company culture you wish to join.

Number One Aim of Any Cover Letter

The top priority in writing the cover letter is to always present yourself as the “solution.” You should ask yourself one clear question, “How will I be able to help this company with my particular skill set?” But always be careful of peppering the text with too many “I’s.” You don’t want to come across as too self-focused.

You only have one page to convince the reader actually to open your attached resume so…

  • Introduce yourself powerfully –hitting the highlights upfront. Be authentic and honest.
  • Mention the job you are applying for and where you saw it advertised.
  • State why you are the ideal candidate for the position.
  • Mention how your skill-set is a perfect match for the job.
  • Wherever possible add stats that show your successes over the years. We all love seeing the numbers.
  • Add any tantalizing tidbits that your resume does not include.
  • Provide additional context for the resume they are about to read.
  • Essentially you are requesting an invite to meet your potential employer face to face so be worthy of the nod.
  • Finish with a strong call to action about why they should consider giving you an interview.

If you can keep it to 250 words –even better. That can seem like a tall order in such a limited space. We’ve all learned to express ourselves succinctly in 140 characters so put your skills of reduction to the test to entice the reader. Your cover letter is your first test in displaying whether or not you have excellent communications skills –a pre-requisite for any job.

A Few Aces Up Your Sleeve

A few tips and tricks to use when you settle down to create your cover letter include:

  • Triple check that you have added your contact information.
  • Never address the letter to Sir/Madam. It’s a lazy choice –find out the name of the hiring manager and use it! It’s the age of personalization after all.
  • Your font size must never be lower than 12 points.
  • Always use 1 to 1.5-spaced margins.
  • Mimic the font style of the company’s website.
  • Always left align your paragraphs.
  • Keep sentences short.
  • Use bullet points where possible for easier scanning.
  • Don’t use gimmicks or long boring, jargon-filled sentences.
  • Don’t cut and paste your cover letter. If you take the time to customize individually for each job application, you will get a better response.
  • When you are finished, ask a friend to look it over and give you their first impression of your efforts. Edit, rework and test again.

Let Us Show You How

Writing exceptional cover letters is an art and speaks to your aspirations for your career advancement. If you are feeling unsure about how to activate the next stage of career growth –we can help you. Give us a call so we can set up a 1-on-1 consulting session to help you get on the fast track to career fulfillment.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.     

Andrew Grant