Cover letters can be your wow factor or the weakest part of your application. It all depends on how you approach writing them. Some people write one and just change the name of the person they’re addressing. Others have a template and adjust key parts for every job. A special few start from scratch every time, really customizing the message to the employer at hand.
However you write them, two things are crucial: DO send a cover letter with each application and DON’T send the same exact letter with every application.
Here are some more dos and don’ts for perfecting your cover letter game:
Do: talk about why you want to work for a company
An important and often overlooked part of the cover letter is the portion you spend talking about what motivates you to join the team in question. Hiring managers want to know that you’re not just thinking about yourself.
They want to see valid, compelling reasons that you have for wanting to join their organizations. Find out what you love about each potential employer, whether it’s their product, service, or the way they work, and articulate your reasons for wanting to get in on the fun in a few sentences in your cover letter.
Don’t: lie about why you love the company
If you aren’t a user of the product or service a company is offering, don’t lie about it. You’ll almost always fail or provide a poor answer to the typical “What do you like about it?” follow-up question. This type of lie can irreparably harm your chances at getting the job, as it makes you seem dishonest and pandering.
Instead, find and point to the things you do like. You may not love the product, but you might really want to work on the problem that it’s tackling. For example, you may not have ever run a small business, but perhaps you love the idea of helping small businesses grow through marketing, which might be your specialty.
Do: let your personality shine through
Your personality is a crucial part of your cover letter. It allows you to stand out in a sea of other candidates and helps hiring managers understand who you are beyond your resume. Don’t be afraid to tell (an appropriate) story. You can talk about a personal experience with a company or why you’re inspired to want to do whatever it is you do.
Cover letters are an opportunity to provide differentiation from the rest of the applicants, so as long as you don’t prove yourself so different that it’s negative, it’s great to be able to say something that makes you stand out.
Don’t: use the wrong tone with the wrong company
When you add your own personality and spin in a cover letter, don’t ignore the appropriate tone of the company. If you’re applying to an investment banking firm, you’ll want to use a different style than you would with a tech startup or an ad agency. Companies and the people within them are looking for folks to join the flock that, while might be unique in their own way, also understand how the organization operates and can be quick to adapt within a workplace.
Start by looking at the way the job description is written. Then look at the company’s “Careers” page to find out how the company advertises itself to candidates. Use these two sources to advertise yourself properly to them. Keep your personality involved, just find a way to make it contextually relevant and easy for them to relate to.
Do: take timing and next steps into your own hands
Employers are notorious for not responding to every application that comes through their doors. While as a practice it may not be right or fair, it does mean that you have to take next steps with each application into your own hands. That means dictating in your cover letter exactly what you will do next and having a call to action for the employer.
For example, you can say you will reach back out to the team for updates on your application over an email in one week. Or, you can give two or three times you are available over the next two weeks for a phone call, alongside your phone number.
Whatever you choose to do, follow through and follow up on it. You’ll show initiative and you’ll get more responses. Even if those responses are negative, you’ll have a clearer picture of what is and isn’t working in your job search.
Don’t: oversaturate employers with emails
Following up is crucial and your intent to follow up should to be clear in your cover letter. It also has to be done appropriately and cannot be done too often or too aggressively. Keep your follow-up emails to a once a week maximum, and if you don’t hear back after two tries, move on and find a better company to apply to.
It’s all about how you value yourself and your time. Don’t show desperation by calling or emailing a company every other day. Instead, keep moving with your job search, eliminate the jobs that you don’t hear back from, and stay proactive. That way, you’re never sitting back and waiting for your fate - you’re taking the hunt into your own hands.
Writing an effective cover letter is simple if you take the time to tailor it both to your own personality and to any job opening you’re applying to. Always do your research. Always strive to stay relevant to the role (by reading the job description) and the reader (by finding out more about them online). And always show that you understand where you uniquely fit into the company’s organizational and ambition charts. Your cover letter will reflect your effort.