I’ve been blogging the past couple of weeks about the hidden job market and why you should apply even when there may not be an open position. (We’ve got an open position and will give you $500 to refer us to the right person) The clincher to it all is the effective cover letter. Not just effective, but awesome. It really isn’t hard.
First let’s talk about the crappy ones, the ones that make me think of gas station coffee rather than a fine pour-over:
To Whom it May Concern (variations: Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Hiring Manger)
I am applying for a position at your company. As you can see in the enclosed resume, I have the background and experience will make a valuable asset to your team.
Feel free to contact me for an interview.
If I had a dollar for everyone of these I get, I could afford advertising. At least it’s short. This tells me you consider me a generic no-name employer and guess what? I’m going to treat you as a generic no-name applicant! Sure, I’ll read your resume, but you have really stand out in this market. This letter tells me you are sending your resume to any job regardless of qualifications. It’s HR spam. Many employers won’t read past this because they don’t even know what you are applying for.
Let’s look at an awesome cover letter I would write if I were applying for my own job. Actually these are pretty much paraphrases from a few excellent ones I’ve received over the years.
Dear Dave (or DoctorDave or Dave Greenbaum)
I’m responding to your ad (or proactively applying) for the job of an onsite computer technician. I’ve researched your company and I’m impressed with the dedication you have to customer service. You stand out in a Google search as one of the best companies in Lawrence for computer repair.
Since my first paper route, I’ve had an extreme dedication to customer service. I believe that if you don’t take care of the customer someone else will. The only thing that exceeds my dedication to customer service is my love of technology. I build computers in my spare time and help family and friends. In my current job, I am the go to person whenever people have trouble with their computers. While others see this as a burden, I see this as a welcome opportunity to help my peers.
Even if I’m not the best fit right now, I would appreciate if you kept my resume on file for future opportunities because I would really like to be part of such a great organization…or at least meet Tova sometime.
Let’s examine my awesome cover letter:
First, I take the time to learn about the hiring manager. With LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and just plain old Google, not knowing something about the person on the other end is virtually inexcusable. The fact you researched shows initiative and is a plus. The best cover letters I get say “DoctorDave™ Computer Repair” recognizing the exact branding of my business. W00T!
Next, you compliment the business in a direct and unique way. You’ve taken the time to see what’s important to us and you mention that. Be specific. Don’t just say it’s a great place to work or you’ve heard good things. Flattery will get you everywhere, but generic platitudes gets you in the trash can. Showing you understand the business is your first step to working there. This shouldn’t take more than five minutes. Read Google, LinkedIn, Yelp, Glass Door as well as the company’s website.
Then take what you know about the business (do your research!) and align their needs with your background. Don’t rehash what’s in the resume (employers do know how to read), but summarize it. Think of it as a teaser to a movie. Highlight the best and most relevant facts to your potential employer so that they know what to look for in your resume. Match it up with the ad (if they are advertising the position) or their unique services (if they are not advertising).
For your closing paragraph, remind them that you might be interested in future opportunities. This is especially important if the company doesn’t have any advertised open positions, because it shows you recognize that and want to be proactive for the future.
Finally, add a human touch if you can. I put Tova on the website for a few reasons. She’s cute. We all know that. She also is a way to show you’ve been to my website and looked around. Tova helps create a human connection for people. If you see the hiring manager is a KC Chiefs fan based on what she posts on Google+, mention you are a Chiefs fan too (if you are). Leave them with a smile on your face and you’ll leave them with a positive impression.
That cover letter and resume is the beginning of the process, but if it’s the only part of the process you care about, it may not be enough. Where to go from here is my next blog topic and how to be assertive without being pushy.