The entire job application process is essentially a sales process. You are the product, and the recruiter or hiring manager is the buyer. The ultimate goal of your job application is to motivate them to buy into what you’re selling – your skills, experience and qualifications, by inviting you for an interview.
It is your job to create a strong first impression by letting the reader know what you can do for them, and your cover letter is the sales advertisement that provides the opportunity to show some personality and generate excitement about what you can accomplish for the company.
The main aim of the cover letter is to create a strong first impression, establish your unique value and encourage the reader to want to learn more about you by checking out your resume.
The words you use to start your cover letter is extremely important. The first 25% to 50% of the page is the most critical to the hiring manager, so highlighting your core attributes at the top is a powerful and effective strategy. These words should enable you to establish a powerful, instant connection with the reader.
Before you begin working on your cover letter, it is necessary to have the following documentation to hand:
Keep the cover letter formal by addressing it to the person responsible for reviewing the application. Be sure to include the actual name of the recipient and his or her position at the company.
Addressing the letter in a generic manner by using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or “To whom it may concern” can come across as lazy, and is generally not recommended. On the other hand, a personally addressed cover letter carries a lot of weight with a hiring manager and shows you as a detail-oriented professional with a strong work ethic.
Many job postings state who the position reports to by job title, not by name. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get the name of the hiring manager for the position. Contact the company and ask for the name of the person that is managing recruitment for the position you’re applying .
You can also try googling the company name along with the job title to see if anything comes up that reveals that person’s name. If you don’t get any results, go to the company’s web site and look around for a listing of their executives or managers. If you find it, see who holds that job title. Alternatively, visit the company’s LinkedIn company page and do a search on the job title.
At the beginning of your cover letter, clearly specify why you’re writing by including a straight-forward and informative subject line that communicates who you are, why you’re writing and what you want.
The subject line needs to entice the recipient to want to read your letter. Avoid generic or vague subject lines such as “Resume, XYZ Inc.” Your subject line needs to stand out through the use of specific wording that directly addresses the subject-matter of the cover letter.
You can do this on a line by itself. If you’re sending an email, this would be the subject of the email.
Here are examples of great subject lines that you can use:
The opening paragraph is where you need to grab the attention of the reader. State your interest in the company and in the role and explain why your background and experience makes you a perfect fit.
Be sure to mention how you found out about the role. If a mutual contact recommended you apply, it is important to include their name in your cover letter because this will carry a lot of weight and your resume is much more likely to lead to an interview.
When writing the opening paragraph, highlight what matters most to the recruiter or hiring manager. What the potential employer will be looking for is clear evidence that you can help the company solve its problems.
Highlight your most relevant skills and expertise so that it is immediately apparent how your background and experience will fit into the company’s needs. Your main goal here is to get the reader really excited about the difference that you can make to the company.
When you have finished writing, read through the paragraph with one question in mind: why should they hire me?
Here are some keys to keep in mind when writing your introduction:
Many companies state that they’re not just simply looking for people who have the skills to perform the role, but those who are able to show that they are truly passionate about what they’re doing. If this is truly your dream job, it should be easy for you to bring this across.
With this in mind, here are some attention-grabbing introductory statements that shows personality and effectively conveys the value that the candidate can add to the company.
Dear Mr. Johnson:
Throughout my career as a search engine optimization specialist, I have been successful at ranking over 70% of clients’ websites on the first page of major search engines using highly effective, white-hat strategies and techniques. In this time, I have gained in-depth experience in search engine optimization, paid search, social media optimization and web analytics.
After being inspired by a truly magnificent speech given by your head of search Abiye Karibi-Whyte at a recent digital marketing conference in New York, I was excited to learn that you currently have an opening for a digital marketing professional. As a seasoned and influential professional in the digital marketing industry, I’m ready for my next big challenge, and the SEO strategist position at Distilled just might be it.
Dear Ms. Green:
It was a day before my best friend’s 1st year anniversary that I realized I had forgotten to buy an anniversary card. In a panic, I started googling online greeting card companies, but none of them really caught my fancy, and that’s when I stumbled upon Moonpig. I’ve been hooked ever since, so I couldn’t help but get excited by the idea of spreading the word about the amazingness of Moonpig as your next social media and community manager.
Dear Mr. Cameron:
When I graduated from [your university] last [your graduation month], I was given what I consider to be some bad advice by my career counselor: “Take the first job you’re offered, even if you don’t really want it.” While I understand that I could have earned a salary and gained good on-the-job training anywhere, I wanted to make sure that my first role is with a company that is truly a leader in the area I’m passionate about: Quality Assurance. Enter: Capgemini. I’m glad I didn’t take the first job that came along as I would have missed out on the incredible opportunity.
Dear Mr. Howe:
On the recommendation of Charles Tatum, senior search engine optimization specialist at __________, I am submitting my resume as an application for the role of search marketing specialist. Based on your job description, my background, skills and experience encompasses all of the attributes that _________ is searching for in a _________. I believe that my six years of consistent success in the _________ industry makes me an ideal candidate for this role.
The key strengths that I possess for success in this position include:
If there’s no opening that you know of and you’re simply sending a speculative enquiry, there’s a lot of value in sending your cover letter and resume. Just because the company hasn’t started advertising doesn’t mean there isn’t an opening. It is likely that they haven’t put it online yet which is great because you won’t have much competition. An example of a strong introduction to a speculative enquiry is:
I’m a digital marketing expert looking for an opportunity to use my background in search engine optimization and paid search, as well as my demonstrated strategies for building relevant and organic links to improve the search ranking, metrics and profitability for the ___________ organization.
Focus your introduction on addressing known problems in the specific industry, and then show how you’re the ideal solution to those problems. You need to show the employer how enthusiastic you are about the position, how relevant your skills are, and how well you have researched the company.