OK, I swore I would never blog about cover letters. But this week a couple of our new clients started a ‘Bridging Strategy’. Its a strategy to find a ‘job’ that will bridge to a career. Its a dual track campaign run side by side. And to find the a bridging job we will need job applications which in turn need… cover letters.
I find most job hunters view cover letters as an after thought – or worse yet, ignore them altogether. Really? They are an opportunity not a chore!
Lets think about who will read the letter – and why they will read it.
Our reader is either a recruiter – a person, or resume scanner software. Both have the same mission – to to quickly discover if you are qualified… or not. The letter needs to be written to the recruiter and answer the question as easily as possible.
Lets pause to give a shout-out for the overworked recruiter wading through piles (or gigabytes) of letters and resumes and make their job as easy as possible. Start by letting them know that we qualify, right off the bat.
Start with these steps…
- Prepare your cover letter template (Click to download a DOC template here or a PDF here). We are going to fill out the table in the center of the first page and succinctly let the reader know at first glance that the application needs to go in the ‘green’ pile.
- Now look at the advertisement or posting and find the candidate requirements. The requirements are the ones with ‘essential’ or ‘must have’ in the front – ‘a plus’ doesn’t count for our purpose. Select the five most important ones. These contain the keywords that the recruiter is looking for. Most of the time the first five listed in the advertisement will be the important ones. No, we don’t want all of them, just the top five.
- Now lets study our five requirements and match them with our qualifications. Jot each requirement and qualification down in a draft – and then distill each down to its essence in just a half dozen words. This is the most difficult thing to do, but debate the use of each word. Sweat this step – if you have an essay it wont be read.
- Paste the 5 finely edited requirements into each cell on the left side column against each bullet. try your best to use only 2 lines in each cell – and without cheating by stretching the table wider!
- Paste each of your 5 qualifications into each cell in the right hand column, same rules apply. Use the check mark as a bullet on this side of the table – a visual prompt for the reader that you have this requirement covered.
- Write the body of your letter but keep the table in the middle of the first page, following the first paragraphif possible.
- Voila! you have a letter that immediately pops out and does the recruiter’s job for them – and it heads for the green pile!
Some important footnotes:
What do you do if you cant exactly match one of the requirements? Like they ask for 5 years experience and you only have three. They are going to find out soon enough, so you include it and you state that you have three years and maybe add other relavant experience or an additional relavant qualification.
You tell the truth on the cover letter since it will indicate your character and set expectations that the resume that follows is also truthful.
OK, I hear you – you can’t use this format with online applications since they are just text and the table doesn’t work – or there is only one file allowed for upload.
For the text box style format the letter offline in text and in place of the table simply place each requirement with its qualification underneath.
And if there is only one upload file allowed, or just one resume text box – put the cover letter on top of the resume and make it into in one document.
The important thing is to get your Caffeinated Cover Letter into the application process and get it working for you!
Email your Caffeinated Cover Letter to mailto:email@example.com and It will be reviewed for and comments returned. And if it is especially good it will post here – with your permission of course.