How do you get your cover letter and resume noticed?
Imagine yourself as a hiring manager…
With a stack of roughly 50 applications to process, you have 30 minutes to get through it all – it’ll take you 36 seconds per application.
Think of what would catch your attention within the first 6 seconds of reading the cover letter, enough to make you want to read the full resume after you have utilized your 36 seconds per application.
In the end, no hiring manager is going to want to (or have the time) to read through a few paragraphs of a cover letter to decide whether or not they should read the resume that it accompanies. Six seconds is all you have to make or break an impression.
Hiring managers might discard long cover letters in favor of a six-second glance at a resume. However, you are more likely to land on the “maybe” pile, in which case you will have to hope the hiring manager will come back to your profile later – if none of the other excellent candidates stand out from their review.
In the worst case, because the hiring manager knows he or she has no time later, you might be put straight on the “no” pile. They simply do not go through resumes and cover letters one by one, reading every word in every paragraph from start to finish.
Thus, the perfect cover letter should convince the hiring manager within six seconds of scanning it whether it’s worthwhile to read your resume.
But how do you start writing a “strong” cover letter?
Your cover letter’s first couple of sentences are crucial. Recruiters and hiring managers typically scan your application in a matter of seconds. If your cover letter fails to catch their attention immediately, they may never even read the second paragraph.
Need help writing a cover letter?
You increase your chances of landing an interview with a solid cover letter introduction.
For starters, you may include a short introduction in friendly, yet professional language. Next, the main part of your cover letter will consist of bullet points that show achievements, results, and success in your career that are related to the job and/or company you’re applying for.
Why Cover Letters are Important
Remember that you’re trying to stand out from the competition. The goal of the cover letter is to let your prospective employer know:
- Who you are,
- Why you want to work for their company,
- Why you’re applying to that position, and
- What value you can do for them.
Unlike resumes, cover letters tell a story that separates you from the crowd. Your resume is a formal, factual listing of your experience and accomplishments, while your cover letter provides an opportunity to show the hiring manager why you are best suited to this position. Also, it showcases your personality in a way a résumé does not. Use it as a chance to advertise yourself.
How to Start a Cover Letter
1. Show enthusiasm for the job.
An important factor that drives success is passion. When hiring managers want candidates who can serve as advocates for the company and are hard workers, stating your passions and motivations right at the outset also creates an interesting first impression.
Employers value genuine enthusiasm since it often leads to highly motivated and successful employees. When employees are passionate about their work, they perform better, stay longer, and contribute to the company for the long run.
“I am pleased to see that A+ Events is seeking a seasoned marketing manager experienced in boosting brand recognition and driving growth through high-traffic events. It has been my pleasure to attend most of your speaking events personally, and I believe that my five years experience in coordinating successful corporate events over the last seven years qualifies me for this role.”
2. Express your excitement for the work the company does.
Are you aware of any recent developments regarding the company?
Mentioning it in your cover letter indicates you are well informed and have a genuine interest in the company. It is a great opportunity to let the company know that you’re genuinely interested in their brand, their mission statement, or their objectives. You can also show that you loved and used their products or services before. The potential employer would want to see that your interests are aligned with the responsibilities of the position.
Employers recognize that a candidate who is genuinely passionate about advancing a company’s goals would be a great asset to their organization.
“I am delighted to submit my application for the entry-level Engineer position at Greener World Corporation. Last month, I read that they have committed to reducing their carbon footprint to zero by 2030. Having long admired their environmental mission, vision, and company culture, I am compelled to apply when I learned about the position opening. Being a recent B.S. in Environmental Engineering graduate of the University of Berkeley, I’m confident that my knowledge of energy modeling and practical experience will make me a valuable member of your team, helping the organization achieve a historic goal of reducing dependence on fossil fuels.”
3. Impress prospective employers with your accomplishment.
Mentioning a past achievement in your cover letter’s first paragraph can impress potential employers. It’s crucial that you can show how you made an impact at your previous workplace. You can also include your previous job title if it is similar to the one you are applying for. This is a great way to pop out from the pack and catch the reader’s attention.
Make your opening lines stand out by writing an impressive achievement that features quantifiable results. In this case, it’s crucial to link how you contributed value to the job during your previous experience with how you will add in the new one.
“I am interested in working for Fitness One Coaching as a Social Media Manager. My 5+ years of experience in the digital marketing space have enabled me to hone my skills and gain a variety of experiences that I’m confident will help me contribute significantly to your team. During the first launch of Rea Lifestyle Coach last year, I more than doubled her Instagram followers, improved enrollment by 35%, and generated $85K+ revenue. I would like to help Fitness One Coaching achieve similar results by bringing my expertise to expand organic social reach and generate targeted ROI.”
4. Highlight a mutual connection or contact.
Did someone inside the company refer you for the job?
Referrals give you an edge over other candidates especially if you’re applying for an entry-level position. It’s a valuable asset to mention a company contact in your cover letter introduction.
If you learned about this job through a connection such as a former colleague, classmate, or friend, mention their name in your cover letter. This way, you grab the hiring manager’s attention because they would be excited to see why someone they respect and know recommended you. Your application is more likely to be considered seriously by hiring managers if you have a referral.
Moreover, research suggests that networking fills over 85% of all jobs, making it the most effective way to land a job. A referral is one of the key factors in securing an interview, so mention it right away in the opening lines of your cover letter.
“I was excited to hear about the open job position from an ex-colleague of mine, Jane Doe. Over the past five years, we have worked together on a number of projects as web designers. Jane suggested that I contact you regarding the position as she thought I would be a good fit for this position on your team.”
- Avoid using extreme words such as “best” or “greatest”
- Express your excitement and gratitude.
- Keep it short. Do not go into too much detail, let the recommendation speak for itself.
5. Display Some Humor or Creativity (if appropriate)
Imagine a day of a hiring manager who has to deal with a pile of generic cover letters every day.
By including humor into your cover letter opening you can add personality to your application and set you apart from the competition. This will not only grab the hiring manager’s attention but keep it as well.
It is fine to inject a bit of humor, charisma, and creativity into your cover letter, provided that it is appropriate for the position and company. Managers don’t like reading lengthy novels, but they prefer to read something interesting that grabs and holds their attention.
When you choose to be creative or humorous, consider the company culture, examine the tone of the job posting, and use your own judgment.
“I recently saw in a social media news ad you’re looking for a station chef o join the Captain Jack’s Restaurant. I was excited to apply for the position since I can cook a steak people can argue over and perform insane Benihana chef flip tricks. Plus, if you hire me, I’m a size small, so you’ll save money on chef jackets (compared to hiring someone larger).”
If your cover letter is creative or funny, it will be a great opener, but do use it at your own risk as it can backfire.
6. Demonstrate what value you can give to the company.
It is essential that you be able to demonstrate to employers that you will be an asset to their company. Their goal is to find the right candidate who offers the best value for their organization. So make sure the first lines of your cover letter highlight either a problem you believe you could solve for them or any hard or soft skills you have to offer.
“I’m writing to apply for the Senior Financial Analyst job position. With seven years of experience in the finance industry, I believe I have the expertise to make a strong candidate. During my time as a financial analyst with Clark & Johnsons, I have helped them reduce error rates by 35% while improving efficiency and productivity by 17%. I am confident I could bring the same level of commitment and results to CGI Financial if I am hired for the said position.”
7. Be direct.
Hiring managers are typically going over a number of candidates at the same time. Each application is scanned quickly within a few seconds.
To make sure your application isn’t overlooked, include a short cover letter letting them know which position you’re applying for. By writing it clearly in the opening sentences, it’s easy for them to learn your intent. Use keywords relevant in the job description
“I am applying for the Manager position at Savers Eight. With nearly four years of experience as a Supervisor at Target, I’ve developed a strong system of effective, compassionate leadership and clear results. I’m confident that my supervisory experience and sales floor skills align closely with the responsibilities required of the Manager position.”
Craft a strong cover letter opening
The first step in figuring out how to write a cover letter that will impress hiring managers is learning how to start it in a positive way. If you want to make a good impression, start your opening lines off strong by being:
- Focused on the needs of the company
- Creative and humorous (when appropriate)
Additionally, here are some tips to remember when writing a strong cover letter:
- Consider how you can help the company. Remember, do not ask for a job; instead, prove to them why they should hire you.
- Avoid being overly formal. Being real and personable is usually better than being stuffy.
- Ensure that everything is stated clearly and that you have struck the appropriate tone in your writing by getting someone else to review it.
- Customize your cover letter for each job application. It’s okay to follow a template, but make sure to personalize it so that it aligns with the employer’s stated needs and interests.
- Read your cover letter out loud to yourself. If you find yourself getting stuck, consider rewriting it to make it more clear.
- Show the employer why they need you on their team and you’re sure to win the interview.