A person’s cover letter is arguably one of the most important things a person can write to set themselves apart from others when competing for a highly sought after job. Learning how to work with the systems that sort through these letters at larger firms is the key to unlocking a competitive advantage and getting your letter seen. There are some obstacles in getting your cover letter seen by a human and that is the ATS program that searches through the thousands of applications received by these big companies. This guide is for anyone in the workforce who is applying to a larger corporation that may be using an online application portal to accept resumes and cover letters. I am going to show you how to nail your application every single time.
Should You Include a Cover Letter?
While some employers have their own preconceived opinions on cover letters, Andrew Seaman, the Managing Editor for Jobs & Career Development at LinkedIn News, states that it is always a good idea to include a cover letter. This important piece of your job application will show your interest in the position you are apply for in ways that just a resume cannot convey. It gives you the chance to tell a story and show off your core competencies.
What is the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?
When applying to a company online, chances are your cover letter and resume are being stored in an ATS. This is a database and program that screens cover letters and resumes and simplifies the review process for employers by allowing them to search keywords in a person’s documents. Formatted cover letters, like the ones found on this page, can provide an excellent baseline for ensuring your cover letter is ready to take on the ATS software. Jobscan recommends using keywords that occur in the job description within your cover letter to help get past the ATS and into the recruiter’s hands.
Key Elements of a Cover Letter
A standout cover letter contains many key elements like a strong opening, statement of purpose, and an elaboration of your strongest relevant skills and competencies. Below, I will get into these key factors in more detail.
- - A strong opening: Something that people overlook is the fact that you should address the cover letter specifically to the person who may be reviewing these letters. This is a little detail that shows you did not make a generic cover letter for each job you apply to. The key is to keep the tone of the letter conversational, yet professional to keep the person reviewing engaged. You can even provide a quote or statement that resonates with you to show your excitement for the job.
- - A clear statement of purpose: Tell the employer exactly what got you interested in the company and link that to how your skills make you a perfect fit for this position. The employer needs to know your intentions and see your dedication to the company.
- - Showcase your skills and experiences: Your cover letter should show off your best relevant skills and competencies that show the employer why they should hire you for the position. Remember not to include skills that aren’t related to the job you are applying to.
What Not to Do with Your Cover Letter
Indeed.com notes that cover letters should be professional and focus on the company at hand. While there are many things to include in your cover letter, there are some things that you should not share. This includes age, sexual orientation, and marital status. Some make the mistake of not proof reading and ensuring the final copy is free of grammar and spelling mistakes, which is a major mistake that could cost you the interview offer. Repeating information from your resume will not fare well, as you want your cover letter to add value and interest. One of the most important things to avoid is talking about salary or salary expectations as it makes you seem presumptuous and unprofessional.
Important Things to Highlight
If you want your cover letter to stay out of a recruiter’s trash can, you must take charge and raise their interest with some of these tips.
- - Tell a story: Use the letter to show off how unique you are by telling a story about how you put those skills to use. Discuss some leadership experience you have been involved in or how an internship forced you to become more flexible with others in a work environment. Showing your initiative is just as important and you can do that by describing a time where you may have organized or led a group in a project.
- - Research the company: Find out what the company’s values and mission statement are; see if you align with their values and explain how you would fit into their workplace environment. Demonstrate what you bring to their company that is different from other candidates.
- - Keep it concise: Make sure to not let your letter run on for too long. A cover letter should be limited to one page using clear and concise language to get your point and intentions across.
- - Editing and finalizing: Like I said before, make sure to proofread everything and check for any grammatical errors there may be. This will ensure your letter is polished and ready for the recruiter.
A fantastic cover letter not only will improve your chances of catching the attention of recruiters but will also get you past that pesky ATS that stands guard, keeping you from getting to the recruiters. Using these tips, you are more than prepared to face the application process and land your first of many jobs. If this article was helpful, make sure to check out even more information on crushing your first job application process on OurFirstJobSearch.com.