Whenever I write a cover letter for a friend or a client, I mentally step back and imagine that I am the hiring manager. It's not always easy to do that for your own cover letters - your emotions tend to cloud the process. Staying objective will help you land an interview for the job that's right for you.
Here are four ways to stay objective and improve your next cover letter:
1. Make Sure It Speaks to the Requirements
Tie your qualifications directly to each of the job's requirements. Even though your qualifications are listed in your resume - talk about them in a summarized fashion and bring them to life as you would in a conversation. Use the requirements as a checklist.
2. Picture Yourself in the Job
Can you see yourself working in this position? Is it a good fit for you? These are questions that you should constantly be asking yourself throughout your job search. It forces you to learn as much as you can about the job and avoid going into an interview passively. If your answer to both of these questions is "yes," your confidence will come through in your cover letter. If you can't picture yourself in this job, that will show, too.
3. Keep It as Short as Possible
A two-sentence cover letter will not convince a hiring manager, but a two-pager will surely put them to sleep. Aim for a one-page (or shorter) letter. According to Washington Post Career Coach Karen Chopra, four quick paragraphs should be enough to explain:
- How you found the job
- How you meet the requirements
- How you are a good fit for the organization
- A closing paragraph with a thank you, your contact information and a mention that you'll be following up
4. Find an Editor
Always run your resume and cover letter past an objective third party. It can be anyone that you trust. Be sure to show them the job advertisement first, so that they understand the position. An objective editor will help you find copyedits and awkward language, but - more importantly - they will also most closely resemble the hiring manager with the added advantage of knowing you. If you want to take it a step further, a hired career counselor will help you pinpoint your strengths and offer valuable feedback.
A cover letter is much like a conversation, introduce yourself and then persuade the reader using their requirements to call you up for an interview.