That would be pretty sweet, right?
Well, it’s totally possible with a great cover letter.
Most job seekers have it backwards. They put too much of their emphasis in writing their resumé and look at the cover letter as some bane formality of the process.
Wrong!! The resumé is the necessary evil out of the two, and you should put most of your time and energy into writing EPIC cover letters.
And for every single job you apply for, you should be prepared to research the position and the company and craft a unique cover letter for each and every one.
Your Goal: Make it Spellbinding
The definition of spellbinding perfectly encapsulates your mission in writing a cover letter:
Spellbinding (adj): holding one’s attention completely as though by magic; fascinating.
Now before you start doubting your writing ability and start thinking that maybe other people can write spellbinding cover letters but you can’t, let me tell you that you can.
Getting the hiring manager’s undivided attention is not about being a wordsmith or a poet. It’s about keeping the focus of your cover letter on them and how they’ll benefit if they hire you.
Let me repeat that: the cover letter is about them; it’s an opportunity for you to convince them that you’re the right candidate by telling them how you’ll benefit them.
I write about this a lot on our blog, and I cover this topic extensively in Apply Yourself, but in essence, your cover letter is a sales letter.
Your cover letter is not about telling the employer how excited you would be if you got a job with them or how you’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this to come along… that’s about you.
All you have to do to have a spellbinding cover letter is to address the main objective of the position for which you’re applying for (i.e. to increase company sales), and then outline a plan on how you would do that.
You will want to connect your ability to do the job to previous experience or achievements as a way to validate your claim, but even if your past experience is thin, you can still convince the hiring manager to invite you to interview by detailing how you’ll succeed in their position.
Say this out loud: “I will make my cover letters about them.”
Get Their Attention
Alright, you know how you’re going to write your cover letter so that it positions you as the person who will help them reach their goals in business. Great.
But in order for you to get them to read your spellbinding cover letter, you have to get their attention and get them to actually read your cover letter.
It may not seem fair, but the truth is that many cover letters go unread, and applications discarded, because the beginning of the cover letter fails to capture the attention of the person reading it.
Almost guaranteed killers are: “To Whom it May Concern” or “My name is _______”.
In Apply Yourself, I share several different strategies that are great in getting and keeping a hiring manager’s attention when reading your resume, but here’s a trick:
Get Them to Say “Yes”
This is a little psychological trick to give you an advantage up front. Start your cover letter with a question (geared towards them and the job) and make it so the obvious answer is “yes”.
“Would you like the person you hire to increase sales by 20% in 6 months?”
“Are you looking for a manager who motivates their team and leads by example?”
See what is going on there? By getting the employer to answer “yes”, you’re getting them to make an almost subliminal “micro-commitment” on you as a candidate.
You’re also generating an emotional response because you’re asking them a question regarding a desire that they have and a pain that they would like to solve.
Here is a HUGE fact and truth about human behavior that can greatly impact your ability to get a job: people make decisions as a result of their emotions, not because of facts.
Get the hiring manager to emotionally connect with you in your cover letter, and you are going to be invited to interview.
In addition to asking a hypothetical, yet emotionally-driven question that results in a “yes” answer, you can also get the hiring manager to emotionally connect with you by being relatable (using story), and even by making them laugh.
And this my friends, is the main reason why I love cover letters and dislike resumés. There is no place in a resumé for emotion, and certainly no way you’re going to generate an emotional response from your resumé.
If done well, the opposite is true for your cover letter.
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