Ah, good old cover letter. How many years have you been predicted to be outdated, redundant, or even extinct? Some recruiters say they never ever read you. Yet, you are still around, and you still get read by hiring folks. As the old saying goes, "There's life in the old dog yet." Watch: Q&A Quick Tip: Use ‘Dear Hiring Team’ In Your Cover Letter That is great news: you still get an extra shot to stand out from the crowd. Yet, I rarely see effective and well-targeted cover letters. Chance missed. Now your resume has to do all the hard selling alone... that is, if your resume still gets read now.
It's Not All About YouThe number one cover letter mistake (and major turn-off) I frequently see is what I call the “egomaniac trap." In the egomaniac trap, the applicant focuses throughout the entire document on him or herself without properly addressing the employer’s needs. But how is it that so many bright, highly educated job seekers come up with such mediocre cover letters?
Stop Being LazyIn my opinion, the number one reason is usually mere lack of motivation. You already spent so much time on your resume, the online forms and you have this existing cover letter for pretty much the same kind of job, and it is getting kind of late and you really want to submit this application now. Just quickly change the addressee and the company name, and voilà, right? Not quite. The problem of proceeding this way is that your content will lack employer specific content. And that is exactly what HR is looking for: employer specific content. To make matters worse, due to your lack of motivation, you consequently end up in the egomaniac trap. If you don’t fill any of your one page whitespace with employer and job specific content, you have a lot of whitespace to write for the only other cover letter ingredient: yourself. Certainly, you have to showcase you and your skills in your cover letter. But you need to do it in a smart way. No-one wants to read the “and-then-style” kind of resumes. Focusing on employer and job position specifics will naturally shift your writing style from the “obnoxious-bragging-mode” to the “our next go-to-guy-mode."
How To Get Out Of The Egomaniac TrapTo get out of the egomaniac trap, you first need to shift your motivation focus: the cover letter is not a duty you need to get over with so that you can finally submit your documents. The cover letter is a chance for you to set yourself apart. You get the chance to show what you know about the company and their specific market or even about upcoming projects or events. A chance that your resume does not give you to that extent! Now as a second step, you need to do your homework
- Read the job posting in detail. What specifics can you address in your cover letter?
- Analyze and understand the employer’s needs behind the open job.
- Understand your own very specific value for the very position.