There is no better person to offer advice on writing a cover letter than the person who actually reads it on behalf of a company. We asked five employees with Hirepurpose companies what key information are they looking for when reviewing a cover letter.
Here’s what they said.
“Make sure to address company values, include key words showing past qualifications and experiences, originality and purpose. Too many cover letters look the same after viewing hundreds of them throughout the day. Make yours stand out.”
Takeaway: Make your cover letter unique. Don’t use the same generic template for every cover letter; tailor it to the job you’re applying for.
“To improve your chances of securing an interview, use cover letters as an extension of your resume and include key information to help hiring managers better gauge your knowledge and interest in their company and specific job. Ensure to include where you heard about the job; how your career objectives, education, training, and employment experiences align with the position you’re applying for; what excites you most about the opportunity; and your availability to start and relocate, if appropriate.”
Takeaway: Your cover letter shouldn’t just be about you, it should also be about what you can bring to the company and role you’re applying to.
Related: The one surefire way to have your job application ignored »
“For me, the traditional cover letter just needs to be a simple introduction to the person applying for the job. If the letter, or perhaps even first e-mail, is an easy opportunity for me to reply, that helps. Simple things like, phone number and e-mail address are key on every communication for busy people. Also highlight:
- What is the position of interest
- Primary skills to make job seeker stand out
- Someone that I can think to myself, ‘I see confidence in this person and believe he or she has what it takes to jump in and get the job done.’”
Takeaway: Make sure your cover letter includes the right information for a hiring manager to contact you. Use the cover letter to demonstrate you are professional, courteous, and confident.
“I don’t recommend using cover letters or at the very least sparingly. The truth is recruiters don’t read them. I’ve heard various stats on this, but the most common is a recruiter will spend roughly 5-10 seconds reviewing your resume. If you don’t catch their attention in that time, they will pass you by. I find that candidates spend all of their time on the cover letter and not their resume. Instead, spend your time adjusting your resume to speak to the role you’re applying for.”
Takeaway: Every company has a different policy when it comes to cover letters. Bottom line is that your cover letter should not outshine your resume.
“A cover letter helps us understand more about why someone is looking for a new career opportunity, the traits they value in a position and company, and the core competencies they possess and would bring to their work every day. A cover letter also helps to entice the reader to learn more and read their resume for more details.”
Takeaway: Some hiring managers use the cover letter to decide whether to read your resume, so make your cover letter engaging and personalized for every job you apply for.
Sourcing, recruiting, and hiring military veterans is not usually as linear a process as hiring civilian employees. The differences between military skills, culture, experiences, and technology often challenge private recruiters. Particularly in cases where recruiters use a dynamic Applicant Tracking System (ATS), it's challenging to evaluate a candidate's background, character, qualifications, and fit in the organization.
For this reason, employers should consider encouraging veteran job applicants to submit a cover letter with their application. In the past, the cover letter always accompanied a resume, submitted in person or electronically. Recently, however, recruiters and hiring managers have been discouraging cover letters, perhaps due to the low quality of the cover letters themselves. A recent article highlights this: "If the job does in fact require a cover letter, keep in mind that only 18 percent of hiring managers rank the cover letter as an important element of the hiring process."
By encouraging a cover letter, the recruiter (or hiring manager) can learn more qualitative insight about the candidate, such as:
- The candidate can expand on their military experience as listed in the resume. For instance, in cases where the veteran job applicant's work was Classified or Top Secret, they can explain these gaps, or the lack of detail on the resume, in the cover letter.
- Since the resume is traditionally a look backwards at career experiences gained, a cover letter empowers the veteran applicant to articulate their goals and vision going forward. If done correctly, the cover letter is a great place for them to showcase their strengths, outline their value to the potential employer, and communicate their vision for their next career. This information is very helpful to a civilian employer who may not understand their career history in the military.
- Did the applicant choose to pursue a certain training in the military? Were they honored and recognized for their skills and character? A cover letter allows the candidate to expand on their military career history and give context to the significance of aspects of their background.
- A cover letter encourages the veteran job applicant to share their values -- personal and professional -- and describe how those values align with the values and goals of their prospective employer. Values are important for military personnel, and being able to clearly and confidently share their values gives veterans a sense of control over their career direction, after their military service.
- Acknowledging that every job applicant is a human being first, a cover letter encourages the writer to share insights about who they are, not just what they did in the military. Veterans sometimes struggle with this piece because the military does not promote individuality. Instead, the focus is on the mission and collective. Asking a veteran to write a cover letter where they share what's important to them, why they are leaving the military, how they envision their civilian career, etc. can reveal truths and insights not found in the resume or social media profiles.
Most military personnel transitioning to a civilian career are not taught the nuances or importance of an effective cover letter. This provides an opportunity for employers seeking to source and hire veterans, as you can provide guidance and encouragement for cover letters as part of the application process, showcasing your company as Veteran Ready!Show Full Article
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