When preparing for a job interview, there are many important steps that include readying your wardrobe, researching the position (and possibly the interviewer if possible) and making sure your breath is fresh before you shake hands. But, in terms of landing a job interview, nothing is more important than that one-page document known as the cover letter. If your cover letter is not on-point then you won’t need to pick out a good outfit or choose an excellent-flavored chewing gum in the first place because you’ll never be getting a chance at the job.
A cover letter is your “case” for yourself that you propose to a complete stranger (usually, a complete stranger, at least). It is also your chance to address anything you might be lacking as a potential candidate, and addressing said lack in a smart way. Here are three ways that you can make your own letter more helpful to snagging an interview:
Address the ad itself
Your cover letter should not be printed out or emailed 100 times as the same exact document. That is to say, each document should be curated to fit a specific job each and every time. Don’t get lazy because you usually won’t get away with it, and you usually won’t get the interview!
Instead, you should look over the job ad from wherever you found it, and make sure that your cover letter addresses at least 95 percent of the questions, skills and little jokes or comments that the employer may have snuck into it. Doing this will show that you are actually interested in their job and not just any old job at all.
Make your case
A cover letter should be thought of as both opportunity and impediment to you meeting the person that has the decision about your employment in their hands. It is an opportunity, because, done right, you have a better chance at moving onto the next step with the company or position. It is an impediment for the exact opposite reason. If not crafted well, the cover letter will stand in the way, potentially instrumentally, of you getting a call.
With your cover letter, explain why you are the man or the woman for the job, and try starting a dialogue, if you can, with the interviewer themselves. Even they are only a theoretical person to you at this point. For positions that you are less qualified for, appearing charming can make the difference beyond even skills or qualifications. If you make a case for your people skills, for example, that could go the distance for you.
Making little mistakes like typos, wrong word choices and, most cuttingly, wrong information about the position, will not stand most of the time. 9 out of 10 times your cover letter will be thrown in the wastepaper bin. If unsure of this, do an experiment where you include these mistakess (see how bad that looks?) and watch how it takes 90 percent longer to land a job interview. Or just make sure that your cover letter is not sloppy and full of grammar errors without the experiment.
Always proofread and fact-check your work before sending it out. Ideally, you should be having a friend, or, ideally ideally, a friend with an editing-background, look over your work before finally sending it out.
You should be using every tool possible to make your cover letter better than the time before. Don’t think of this sheet of paper as a requirement (although, duh, it is), but, instead, treat it like an amazing opportunity to wow somebody who you want something from.
Have something to add to this story? Comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.
Header image: ShutterStock