Phase 3, Step 11 - Draft a Cover Letter Template
Step 11: Drafting a great cover letter will take a lot of practice! Most cover letters will be batched into four piles by employers or hiring managers: 1) No cover letter included 2) Too generic or not applicable 3) Decent 4) Great. The key to having a decent cover letter is to follow the prescribed formula and customize every single cover letter. The key to a great cover letter is to really love the company you are applying to and showing your enthusiasm, value-add and knowledge of the company and the particular job for which you are applying. When a company asks for a resume they are also asking for a cover letter. Those who include a customized cover letter REALLY stand out. When we poll recruiters, about 50% say they read the cover letter first and if they like what is written, then they will read the resume. The other 50 will skip the cover letter and read the resume first and if they like what is written, will then read the cover letter. Your resume shows your qualifications. The cover letter (or lack thereof) demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm for the position. Employers want qualified applicants who are enthusiastic about the job and have done enough research to show how they can add extra value. One MBA-P student who recently went through a job search, put it this way: “Five years ago, employers would ask for 10 items and settle for 7 or 8. Now, employers are holding out for all 10 of the qualifications on the list.” Several recruiters responded to that adding that they’re finding that employers are actually holding out and hiring those that have one to 3 additional qualifications beyond the original list of 10. Your cover letter is your opportunity to show what you have the qualifications beyond the list of 10.
- Imagine you are the hiring manager, why would you be selected from the pool of candidates?
- What are the expressed qualifications for the job?
- What else do you know about this organization from your research that would make you an ideal candidate?
- How can you uniquely add value to this employer?
- What are some of the challenges this company faces in this marketplace? How can this role expand to help this organization meet that challenge?
- Who are the company’s competitors? What are the unique strengths of this organization that makes their product more attractive to you as a consumer? As a client? Or their organization as a job candidate?
- Start with a generic cover letter following the Cover Letter samples in Optimal Resume. Paragraph one should answer who, what, why and how questions. Paragraph two demonstrates your qualifications. Paragraph three has a generic closing.
- Consider the greeting. NEVER send a cover letter ‘To Whom it May Concern” – nobody will read it as it appears that you did not do your homework and screams “GENERIC”. Always find a name of someone to send it to, even if the only name you can find is the President of the organization.
- Then, update your opening paragraph. Sentence number one should reach out and grab the reader, compelling them to read on. The middle of this paragraph should answer who, what, why and how questions, remember to mention names of who referred you. The final sentence should be a teaser for the middle paragraph often giving a big picture statement about why you’re the best candidate with details followed up in your middle paragraph.
- Think carefully about your middle paragraph. What is completely unique about you that might give you that extra one to 3 qualifications that they didn’t ask for? Is it enthusiasm for their brand? Is it prior experience? Spell it out for them while weaving in how you match what you perceive to be your three top qualifications. Read plenty of samples on Optimal Resume and make yours unique. There’s nothing worse than having only altered a sample slightly and find out that the other 3 candidates from Willamette did the same thing with the same sample.
- Read your own cover letter and consider…does this cover letter tell my story clearly and succinctly and show how I can add extra value to the employer? If not, go back and redraft.
- Finally, have a friend or colleague proof-read your document before sending. There is something about cutting and pasting, editing and customizing that makes it easy to have typos that we don’t see or track changes that did not erase. Pay particular attention to grammar! Make sure the person you ask to review your cover letter is a native English speaker (American). Attend a writing workshop where grammar will be focused upon in more detail.
- As you prepare to email you application to firstname.lastname@example.org remember to professionalize your email. The subject line should have the job name, number and candidate name. Your resume should be named “Last name_resume_company name and job number.pdf”, as should your cover letter. If you have a cover letter attached, the email body can be short and sweet.
- If a company does not request a cover letter, your email can be the cover letter. Say the same thing, but in a more condensed format showing your research, your top 3 bullet points and your enthusiasm.
Deliverable for GSM5108:
Draft your cover letter using Optimal Resume and bring it to class.
After Class: Revise your cover letter and submit for feedback from your PCA at least one week before the Mock Application deadline. After receiving feedback, revise and submit both your cover letter and resume for the mock internship application process via WISE. NOTE: Most people need 3-5 revisions before it is really, really good. Plan time for plenty of revisions.
Why this is important:
It is necessary that you tailor your cover letter for every application. Employers want to see a cover letter that demonstrates how your experience relates to the job posting.