Ah, the dreaded cover letter. For many job seekers, the cover letter is harder to write than a resume. And while some job applications list it as optional, this does not mean that a cover letter is a waste of time. In fact, this one piece of paper (or that one email attachment) can make or break your chances of landing an interview.
We chatted with career coach and CEO of WorkItDaily, J.T. O’Donnell, about the keys to getting hired in 2018 and she insisted that wowing recruiters boils down to delivering the right kind of cover letter.
Wait, there are different kinds of cover letters?
The biggest trend in cover letters is the concept of “disrupting” the reader. Disruptive cover letters tell a compelling story that creates a connection between the applicant and the hiring manager or recruiter. The goal? To be “original, different, refreshing.”
“The cover letter is your opportunity to connect with the employer, show that you understand them,” says J.T. O’Donnell. “Recruiters and hiring manager want an informed candidate. This cover letter is not about you, it’s about them. It’s about what you know about the company, why you’ve connected with them, and why you so badly want to work for them.”
In her recent lifestream webinar, “Help Me Get Hired,” J.T. dug into what it takes to get hired in 2018 and outlined some of the most common cover letter mistakes, as well as the solutions. Here are our favorite takeaways:
1. Don’t regurgitate; Innovate
“A cover letter should not be an overview of your resume. That’s the biggest mistake. Showcasing your experience and qualifications is what the resume is for, not the cover letter. Making this mistake will get your application sent to the ‘No’ pile.”
2. Grab their attention
“A good cover letter grabs the reader at ‘hello.’ You want the first sentence of the cover letter to grab the reader and completely disrupt. Come up with an attention-grabbing first sentence. Make a statement or have a really interesting question that you start with and bold in the center of the page. This will pique the reader’s interest and entice them to continue reading.
3. Tell a story
“Stories are memorable because they create emotion and they create connection. You want to show that you’ve done your research and understand where you can add value to the company. They should be able to feel a connection with you when reading your cover letter.”
4. Ditch the formalities
“Another mistake people make is being too formal instead of being personal. The biggest example of this is strategic a cover letter with ‘To whom it may concern.’ There is nothing more impersonal and dry than this phrase. It shows a lack of effort. In this day and age you can find a recruiters name, find the hiring manager’s name. If you cannot find this, there’s a better option: ‘Dear Hiring Team.’ That is more personal and warmer.”
Get more advice from J.T. O’Donnell on “Help Me Get Hired”! Plus, take our survey when you’re finished!