Every person who writes a cover letter wants to catch the attention of the person reading it. Some will try to use pretty paper. Some will choose a unique font. Some will add graphics. And others will try all of the above.
Typically, when a hiring manager looks at a cover letter, this is the process:
- Quickly scan the first paragraph as this is where most people write some variation of, “I saw your job and want it.” Yup, nothing interesting here.
- The second paragraph usually contains the written version of the “why you should hire me” question so they will spend a bit more time on this section. If this is just re-stating what the resume has, that is a let-down.
- Quickly scan the last paragraph as that is typically a repeat of, “I saw your job and want it.” Yup, nothing new here either.
Regardless of the color, font, paper style, graphics, or whatever else you list there, if you cannot grab the attention of the hiring manager with the actual content in your letter, this is all wasted effort.
For moms who are returning to work, it is even more essential that you stand out from the crowd by making it easy for a hiring manager to focus on exactly what you want her to see – your qualifications.
You’ve studied the job description and know that you can do this job. Now, what do you need to say in order to convince them of that?
Rather than the standard, “I saw your job and want it,” use the top 3-4 requirements of this job to tailor the standard 3-4 paragraphs of your cover letter. Even better, make them succinct bullet points.
I’ve read your position description for the human resources lead and believe that my 12 years of experience in personnel management make me an ideal candidate for this position.
During my previous employment and community leadership experiences, I have proven success in the following areas:
- Completing the hiring process, according to state and local regulations, for over 75 new employees.
- Led new employee orientation for 135 people.
- Designed and led employee training programs twice annually for all employees on the productions line (approximately 65 for each training).
- Managed a cross-department team through updating personnel policies.
My positive approach to team leadership and employee growth through training will become a vital piece of your management team at XXX company. I look forward to exploring how we can work together.
Obviously, you will not want to make up numbers and brag about make-believe accomplishments as I have done above. However, you do have some amazing talents and abilities that you can feature in just such a format.
You also can give yourself the credit you deserve for the work you have done. If you actually were the team leader, don’t tell them you “worked with a team.”
All the fancy fonts, colors, and papers will mean nothing if you don’t grab their attention with you actual qualifications.
(Granted, there are some companies and jobs that will really appreciate these fun approaches to a cover letter. Again, if you don’t have the qualifications, even the beautiful font will not get you in the door.)
Focus on your strengths and skills. Use those to get their attention!