Figuring out the best practices and best words to use when crafting your cover letter can be a tall order. Your writing needs to be short and concise and the letter has to captivate the distracted interest of your reader. As a result, the way you reach out to different companies can often feel like a complete shot in the dark. Luckily, the reality of the job search means that you’ll be sending a lot of resumes and a lot of cover letters, and this can be a great opportunity for you to A/B test different cover letters.
A/B testing involves producing two different finished cover letters (A and B), sending them both out to the same number of jobs, and seeing which ones produce better results. Those results can be anything from responses to interview offers, or even to downloads of your resume if you use attachment tracking tools like YesWare.
Successfully A/B testing your cover letter will allow you to find out what works best and where to spend your effort. Here’s how to get started.
Start with what you have
The easiest way to get started with your A/B testing experiments is to use your current cover letter as a baseline. Start by making simple modifications to your tone. For example, if you’ve been sending out a formal and stiff professional cover letter, try writing out a second, more casual version of that cover letter that adds a bit of your personality and flair. Maybe switch up the focus of your writing, switching between qualifications, company interest, and fit.
Whatever the changes you make, make similar changes throughout the document to ensure consistency. Then, as you proceed to apply, use the two cover letter templates you created as guidelines to apply to your next batch of jobs. Split your usage down the middle (i.e. 20 applications with one cover letter, 20 with the other) and note down which cover letter you sent to which job. JobHero makes this super easy by allowing you to upload the specific documents you applied with to the right job card.
Note: You don’t have to apply to every job from now on with one of the two cover letters. If you feel like an old cover letter was working well enough, keep using it alongside your tests until you gather enough information to make an informed decision on the changes you should make.
Analyze and iterate
As you begin to hear back from your applications, keep an eye on the ones you applied to during your A/B test. The results will inform you on the effectiveness of one over the other. If you find that a formal cover letter works better and lands you more responses and interviews, continue using that formal method. If you find that focusing on why the company is a great fit is getting you more responses, continue doing so with your subsequent applications. As you hear back and see what’s working, you’ll learn more and more about how companies in your industry prefer to hear from you. The better you cater your cover letter to them, the higher your chances of being seen as a relevant candidate.
Use the information and conclusions to further iterate on your cover letter. If cultural fit cover letters seem to be working, create two versions that you can further test that both feature cultural fit as your focus. Now, have one version use a more formal tone and narrow things down even further.
Get a bit more complex
Another important part of a cover letter is how you send it. And no, that doesn’t mean whether or not you apply online or by snail mail. Always online. What about whether you should apply through the automated application form on the company’s website or send an email or InMail to a recruiter or hiring manager? This is a great thing to test both sides of, as it will allow you to find out if companies in your target industry are more likely to read and respond to your application if you reach out directly or through traditional channels.
In the same way that you split your applications between two cover letter formats, try splitting your applications between direct emails and online applications. Or take a batch of jobs you already applied to through resume forms and send a cold email to the hiring manager to follow up on your application. Trying these methods of outreach will allow you to see if there are best practices you can use to maximize the return on your applications.
Your job search doesn’t have to be directionless. All it takes is pulling a page out of an email marketer’s book and trying some clever tests to see what type of cover letter and outreach format works best for your industry. Finding the right job is a lot easier when you are always aware of your progress and have a bird’s eye view of your search.