Hiring managers are divided when it comes to cover letters: some love them and having one is a requirement, while others hate them and skip ahead to the resume. And then there are those who fall in between and may or may not read it depending on the day or the job. You have a 50/50 chance, so you’re better off crafting a compelling letter than missing your opportunity to stand out.
But in order to maximize effectiveness with your cover letter, it must be well written and get to the point. Stick to no more than one page; short and simple. A hiring manager isn’t going to waste their time reading a long, drawn-out message that rehashes your entire resume or contains so much fluff that they missed your point.
Do your research before you even start writing. If you want to entice a hiring manager to learn more about you, you have to catch their attention. That means having a cover letter that succinctly shows what you bring to the table and why you’re a good fit for the position. Find out as much as you can about the company, what their needs are, and what their vision is. Read their website but also check out any news stories where they’re mentioned. This can give you further insight.
Then determine which of your skills or accomplishments best showcase what you can do for them. Did you roll out a new software program company-wide? Did you lead a Six Sigma or Kaizen project that saved $1M or improved production time? Are you a whiz on a specific program they use? Think about what would appeal to the hiring manager the most for someone in the role you’re applying for. Of course, reference the job description to see what they highlight.
Stay focused on those key points you’ve identified. Avoid the temptation to go off on tangents or try to capture everything they’re looking for in your cover letter. Once you’ve caught their attention, your resume will fill in many of those details, and you can elaborate in an interview as well. You just need to show them the most compelling points.
Close strong by encouraging a follow-up. Mention that you look forward to discussing the open position in more detail, or would like to schedule a meeting. While you don’t want to come across too aggressively, you do want to show that you’re serious about the position and are assertive.
Don’t forget to carefully proof your cover letter a few times before sending it off. The last thing you want to do is tarnish the strong impression you’re trying to make with a silly spelling or grammar gaffe. You may also want to have someone else read it see what their first impression of you is, and if they’d be compelled to want to learn more.