How to write a cover letter (because yours sucks)!
As you browse through the job boards you finally find a position that sparks your interest. You’ve lucked out as they only want a resume and cover letter emailed to them. No need to fill out 33 pages of questions to update their HR system. Admit it, you despise those convoluted systems. (It’s ok, everyone does.)
You fire up your email client and attach your current resume. Now, the cover letter. You open the same template that you’ve used for the last five positions you’ve applied for, change a few variables and hit send.
You are a perfect match for the position. Naturally you are a little upset when a week or two passes by with no response from the company. What gives?
I used to follow this same method when applying for a new position. Key word, I used to, as in “in the past”. I discovered a little secret that has provided me with an 82% response rate on resume submissions. This percentage does not include automated responders. I am talking about real, human responses asking for a time to schedule an interview, or conduct a quick phone screening.
The secret isn’t a magic resume template. It’s in the first impression, in other words : your cover letter.
Face the facts, any dullard of the street can search for “cover letter template” in Google, change a few variables then press send. When you do this, it shows lack of ingenuity and dedication to the hiring team. Do you really want that to be your first impression?
Here’s my formula for writing a compelling cover letter.
1. Never, under any circumstances start the cover letter with the word “I”.
Actually any letter you write should not begin with that word. The reason for this : subconsciously it comes off as a bit narcissistic. It shows that you are the most important person in the world to the person reading the letter.
2. Show charisma.
Stop thinking that a cover letter is a necessary evil and must be nothing but facts. Craft a story around the message you are trying to convey. Personally I try to paint a picture of something, then populate the facts as to why I am the best choice.
3. Be conversational.
Do you remember the original ipod commercials? I know that I do. If you are in a certain age range this question most likely triggered a memory of a silhouette dancing with white earbuds. If not, you most likely said “No” and kept reading. Whether the answer was “Yes” or “No” is irrelevant. You answered the question.
When a question is proposed people answer it. Even rhetorical questions are answered silently when presented. We really can’t help it. Asking questions allows you to get into the head of anyone reading the letter. Interesting concept, isn’t it?
4. Keep it short
Time is valuable for everyone. Keep your message short, sweet and well refined. A cover letter that takes 60 seconds to read should take you 15 minutes or more to write.
5. Always end with a value proposition and call to action.
By the end of the letter, the reader should know that you are a charismatic, insightful expert in your field. Now it is time to exploit with one of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s “Weapons of Influence” : Authority.
When someone we perceive as an authority makes a command, we typically follow. To further amplify this effect, give the reader a value proposition immediately before the call to action. Tell them what you are going to do for them.
Here’s an example :
“Are you ready to increase revenue, and provide the best experience for your customers? Historically I have helped Widget Inc. increase revenue by 82% for the past 3 years. Contact me at 480–111–1111 to discuss how I can do the same for XYZ Company.
” See what I did?
I first proposed a question that any business person will answer “Yes” to. Getting that “Yes” at the end of the letter is important. (Conversational Hypnosis Experts use similar techniques all the time.)
Next I explained that I have increased revenue by a positive percentage while in my current position. You might be thinking “I’m not a sales person, what should I say?” The best approach is to relate your value proposition to a measurable business objective. Finally, I told the reader what to do. I issued the call to action (CTA) to “Contact me”. Never forget to issue a call to action!
It may seem like a bit of work, however it is well worth it. The next time you create a cover letter, use these techniques and let me if they have worked for you.
Until next time!
About the Author : Keith is a Sr. Voip Engineer with a leading Cloud Communications Provider. When not knee deep in a SIP trace (geek talk) he studies and social psychology and practices these techniques through whitehat social engineering. As a member of Toastmasters, Keith is also a self described “Public Speaking Junkie”.
Find out more information at geek2great.com
Originally published at www.geek2great.com on October 14, 2015.