Think your cover letter game is up to par?
You may want to re-evaluate that.
Cover letters are your intro to HR managers and company CEOs. They’re the first thing employers look at. Your cover letter is your first (and best) chance to let them know why, in a sea of candidates with similar qualifications, you’re the best in the bunch.
If your cover letter is your first interaction with the company, then its introduction is your handshake. And nobody likes a feeble handshake.
That intro is prime real estate. Any savvy job-seeker wouldn’t waste that on something boring, staid and generic that you’ve cooked up from a half-baked cover letter template you found online.
Remember, HR managers read through hundreds of cover letters and résumés — it’s a huge part of their job. You need to grab their attention from the first sentence if you want them to continue reading — and call you for an interview.
Think of yourself as a product you’re trying to sell. Consumers take about one-third of a second to make a purchase decision. This means you don’t have much time to get an HR manager to stick around and keep reading. A stellar introduction is crucial.
It’s important to figure out what your angle is (or should be) before you sit down to write. Consider factors such as the culture of the company you’re applying to, the industry you’re in, and even some harder-to-find details such as the personality of the company’s HR manager.
What works for some won’t work for others. Do you know what’s appropriate when applying for a bank teller job? What about as a junior petroleum engineer? An HSE coordinator?
We’ve broken down our list of winning cover letter introductions to show you different approaches to this crucial stage in your job application.
Put your passion on display
You may have the skills to do the job, but so does everyone else who’s applying. It’s critical that you set yourself apart from your competition.
Outline your interests and show where they intersect with what you’re doing — it’s a great way to show you’re a unique candidate. It can also signal to HR managers and CEOs that you’re going to bring a unique perspective to the work.
- After about three years of working at non-governmental organisations in Trinidad and Tobago and in Toronto, and watching more “find your passion” keynotes than I’d like to admit, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’m especially good at one thing: helping others.
- When I graduated from the University of Trinidad and Tobago last year, one of my lecturers gave me what I consider to be bad advice: “Just get any job, and figure the rest out later.” While I think I could have gained good transferrable skills and on-the-job experience anywhere, I wanted to make sure my first step gave me opportunities for professional development, mentorship and rotations through different departments. Enter: Guardian Group.
Show that you love their brand
Company culture is becoming more and more important in a modern work experience. If you’re doing the job hunt thing right, then you’re looking for a workplace whose brand you love, and whose values you share.
Creating a narrative that demonstrates your fandom is also a great idea — studies show that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone.
Just be detailed and specific while you explain why this is your dream job, at your dream company.
- The job description for Massy Stores’ business development executive stopped me in my tracks. I’ve been a faithful Massy Stores customer for years, both before and since its rebranding, and I have always been impressed by the way the company treats its customers, employees and the community at large.
- If I could make the mortgage application process better for just one person, my recent job search would all be worth it. So, a loan officer position at Republic Bank Limited, where I could do it every day? I can’t think of anything more fulfilling.
Brag about yourself and your accomplishments
Found the perfect opportunity on Caribbean Jobs? The initial stage of your job application is not a time to be modest. You have one chance to get to the interview stage. And you’ve got to stand out in a group of really smart, really qualified people.
Try highlighting a rare skill you possess, an admirable personality trait or something you achieved in one of your previous positions.
- After spending three years managing the internal communications for a large state agency, I could plan an international trade conference in my sleep. I’m positive that my next move will be the consultation of government ministries on their communications strategy.
- I’m the person who looks for inefficient procedures, finds ways to streamline them and consistently strives to boost the productivity of everyone around me. It’s what’s earned me three promotions at my current company, and it’s what I know I can do as the new traffic manager at Lonsdale, Saatchi & Saatchi.
Try some light humour
Be careful with this approach. Do some research to make sure this won’t be considered inappropriate and fall flat.
You may get away with this in more creative fields such as advertising and public relations. Or maybe some HR managers have a great sense of humour and think the company could use someone who might boost morale around the office.
If this doesn’t work, though, don’t say we never warned you.
- Thank you so much for offering me the account executive position at FedEx Trinidad and Tobago! I wholeheartedly accept. OK, I know we’re not quite there yet. But if we were, here are just a few ideas of what I would do once in the role.
- You’ve slept on it. You’ve made lists of pros and cons. You’ve had team meetings with management on this. So why haven’t you made your hiring decision yet? When you’re looking for advice, what you need is not more, but better. You need a candidate like me.