6  SURE WAYS TO REVIVE YOUR COVER LETTER
Author: Ana Lokotkova
Published: February 15th, 2018
If you are looking for a new job, you know the usual protocol. Build a resume, write a cover letter, send to the employer. 

As far as your resume is concerned, you know what to do. And you know why you need it, which helps a lot. 

When it comes to cover letters, things tend to get a bit trickier. Not only are you often unsure why you need it in the first place, but you also know there’s no one way to write it.

Old buddy Google doesn’t always help with writing an effective cover letter. The worst part is constantly stumbling upon someone who’s saying cover letters are dead. 

Yet, you still see employers requesting them. 

With a heavy heart, you start writing yours, feeling like you’re wasting your time. Not a great start, is it?
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I couldn’t put it better than Ann Handley, who is a top expert in content creation:

“If you don’t care about what you’re writing about, no one will”   

This is why so many cover letters appear dull and unappealing. And this is why employers skip reading them. And this, in turn, is why you were led to believe cover letters are dead (or are no more than a mere formality). 

What if your cover letter could become your biggest and hardest-to-ignore advocate? 

What if there were things you could do to revive your cover letter and turn it from an underdog into a real attention-grabber? 

1. Why should they care? 

If you believe your cover letter should introduce who you are and tell your story, that’s already something. But the most important question your cover letter is meant to answer is: why does all that matter to the employer?

Simply telling them who you are isn’t going to do the trick. Tell them why you matter to them.

2. “Best way to keep readers reading is to talk about them, not you”

Once again, I’m quoting Ann Handley. She knows great content. And what’s your cover letter, if not a piece of content intended to market you to employers?

As she writes in her book “Everybody writes”, your content needs to please your reader, and your reader ONLY. In your case, it’s the employer who becomes the center of your attention.

This means that empathy for the employer’s needs and priorities is essential.

Imagine you are the hiring manager. You are overwhelmed with workload and have a million challenging tasks. Wouldn’t you like someone to care about what it is that you need and hope to find in a new member of your team?
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If you feel stuck and unsure how to start your cover letter, start by thinking of your perfect employer – an actual person – instead of a nameless Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Even if that person is hypothetical and exists only in your head. Someone you like and want to help.

Keeping that person in mind, write as if you are looking them in the eye and talking directly to them.

When reviewing your cover letter, make sure it tells the employer how you will help their company. It doesn’t always need to be much. Even if you can make things a tiny bit better, it may be exactly what’s most needed.

3. Be human 

Best cover letters I’ve seen sounded human. They were unlike most cover letters sounding as if uttered by a robot who uses a limited list of fancy vocabulary and complex phrases.

Human equals more relatable. If you want to have an actual human read your cover letter instead of the algorithm of an ATS, make your letter human.

4. Show, don’t tell

You know, I’m really good at job interview coaching. I’ve been doing it for a while.
 
Does that convince you to hire me to help you prepare for your next interview?

What if I told you I coached 10 people this month, and all of them landed job offers after their interviews and reported feeling more confident and comfortable during their interviews? Would that give you a better feel of how I could help you?
Theory is good, but unreliable without proof.

Take out theory. Make your statements tangible. Make yourself tangible.

5. Make blank space your best friend

When employers only have seconds to evaluate your profile, you can’t afford to risk overloading them with text. Writing more won’t guarantee being noticed, understood and considered for an interview.

Say “no” to long paragraphs. Use spaces to break down ideas into digestible chunks that are easy to scan quickly. Your letter will immediately look more appealing, because it’ll be easier to read.

According to Ann Handley, paragraphs should consist of 3-4 sentences, or 5-6 lines at most. If I wrote this article as one overwhelmingly long chunk of text, I bet you wouldn’t even bother reading the first sentence. And you’d be right.

6. Cut the amount of clichés

The internet is filled with lists of cliché words and phrases job seekers love using even after seeing them blacklisted.

Attention to detail is an honourable member of almost every cliché list out there. Yet, it keeps popping up in resumes and cover letters quite frequently.

If you don’t want to join the pile of immediately-rejected applications, use clichés very sparingly.

In certain occasions, some of them may be appropriate. Just as a seasoning, but not the core.

Have fun!

As we mentioned in the beginning, there is no one way to write a successful cover letter.

And that’s the beauty of it.

You can experiment. You can try. You can be creative. You can revise and adjust.

And you might even find it fun to write cover letters (come on, at least a tiny bit!).


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About Ana LokotkovaAna is a previous writer for Talent Hack. She is an independent job interview coach and resume writer based in Calgary, Canada. When the energy-focused economy of her province of Alberta was hit hard by the recent oil price collapse, she took on the mission of helping job seekers fight for the careers they love and deserve. She feels fortunate and grateful to be serving clients who come from a wide variety of locations, industries and position levels. She helps them approach their job-hunt with confidence, effective tools and strategies, and a clear action plan that gets them noticed by decision-makers.  Find her on LinkedIn here.

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Talent Hack was founded by Lindsay Mustain, #asklindsay. I am a recruiter by trade and a humanist by condition. The existential question that drives me is "How can I help you?" Marrying together my expertise in talent acquisition and candidate experience this question becomes "How can I help you find your dream opportunity?"

My vision is to one day help organizations realize the impact of valuing human beings as people and not as pieces of paper. Until that time, I share unapologetic advice and job search strategies that work within the current system. Learn more at: www.talentparadigm.co/services

I help to bridge the gap between job seekers and employers through branding, the candidate experience and journey, along with disruptive talent acquisition strategies. My journey at Amazon led me to becoming their most visible employee by speaking on talent attraction, candidate experience (CandX), and humanizing the talent acquisition process.

I launched Talent Paradigm in 2017 with the goal of leveling the playing field for candidates in the job seeking process. My organization provides coaching, resume writing, branding, and consulting services and products to help improve candidate outcomes.
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