Here’s the scenario:
You come across a delicious job offer. It’s got sky-high pay and more and more benefits than Google can offer. So, you dive into writing a resume with rage-fueled focus and send the application. Two weeks later, you get a thanks, but no thanks email from the hiring manager. That makes you want to eat bubble wrap.
You didn’t attach a cover letter. And a whopping 56% of recruiters want applicants to attach a cover letter to the resume.
Good news. You’re about to learn how to tweak your cover letter, so it makes employers throw job offers at your feet like rose petals.
Always Open with a Personal Greeting
To whom it may concern,
When a hiring manager sees a salutation like that, it makes her yawn.
Why? It’s as generic as a no-name can of soup. Plus, it’ll prove you didn’t bother to tailor the cover letter to the job.
So, always start with a personal salutation.
Here’s a rule of thumb:
- If you apply for a job in a startup, go with the hiring manager’s first name, Dear Alice,
- If you target a corporate job, stick to a more formal version like Dear Ms. Smith,
If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, poke around the company’s site. If it doesn’t help, call the receptionist.
Also, consider networking with the company’s employees on LinkedIn. Knowing people in the company might get you the job faster than figuring out how to write a cover letter.
Grab the Hiring Manager’s Attention from the Get-Go
Meet Alice—nice glossy black eyeglass frame. She’s a hiring manager on lookout for stellar engineering hires.
Alice has skimmed through 50+ generic cover letters with openings that are as boring as four-hour documentaries about astrophysics.
A glance here, and glance there and in the trash they go.
But - when she picks yours, it jerks her awake. Her eyes dilate, and she wants to waltz to the phone to invite you for an in-person interview.
Sounds good, huh?
Here’s how to make it a reality.
Start your cover letter with a catchy first paragraph. It’ll grab the hiring manager’s attention and blow the competition out of the water.
Below is a surefire cover letter opening formula:
- Drop a fact about the company to prove you did your research.
- Mention how you can address the company's needs (scan the job description for help.)
- List measurable wins from past jobs that will prove you can help the company reach its true north.
Need a real-life example?
As a longtime enthusiast of XYZ's products and services, I was excited to see your opening for an engineering proposition. In my previous role, I increased production efficiency by 17% and lowered defects by 29% department-wide. I believe I can help with XYZ's current and upcoming challenges as I continue to grow my skill sets.
Make Sure Your Cover Letter Is Robot-Approved
Here’s the thing:
When you apply for a corporate job, you will compete with 250+ other applications, 47% of whom will attach a cover.
Hiring managers, like Alice, have to use applicant tracking systems (ATSs) to weed out bad eggs.
ATSs like Taleo (weapon of choice for most recruiters and hiring managers) go through resumes and cover letters looking for keywords and compare them against the job ad.
If an ATS bot thinks you don’t fit the job like a plug in a socket, human eyes will never see your application.
But, you can flip things around and get your cover letter robot-approved.
- Skim the job ad and write out words related to duties and required experience.
- Similar to your resume, pepper your cover letter with keywords you found in the job ad.
- To test your cover letter match rate, you can use Jobvite’s paid cover letter scan feature. One of the things it can do is create a list of hard and soft skills found in the job ad, so you can put them in your cover letter.
Pro tip: Don’t try to cheat the system. Just like with resumes, keyword-stuffing your cover letter is a bad idea. After all, even if your application passes an ATS hurdle, a human will read both your resume and cover letter.
Add the Postscript to 10x Your Success Rate
You’re on the homestretch. Congrats.
Now, you just need to add a final touch that’ll tip the scales in your favor and spotlight your value proposition.
A delicious PS note.
It’s a snappy one-liner below the closing that intrigues the hiring manager and makes her a fool not to call you.
Need an example of a PS note?
PS—I would value the opportunity to share how I spearheaded the Quality and Time Lean Manufacturing initiative, which helped decrease costs by 23% across the department.
With a postscript like that, you’ll rise above the noise and land your dream job.
So, What Do You Think?
There you have it.
A jaw-dropping four cover letter optimization tips that will help land your dream job.
Do you write a cover letter when you apply for a job? Or do you think they are becoming a thing of the past?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Let’s chat!
Max Woolf is a career expert at ResumeLab. He’s passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through the expert career industry coverage. In his spare time, Max enjoys biking and traveling to European countries. You can hit him up on LinkedIn.
Share this article
8 Do’s and Don’ts for Graduate Job Seekers
The job market is pretty dismal for anyone who is unemployed — especially if you’re graduating soon. This article will spill all the do’s...
Cold or Hot: Which Shower Temperature is Best?
People crave warmth when they jump in the shower, especially on chilly mornings. Feeling the heat surrounds your body is a great...
6 Ways to Make Yourself More Employable
Whether you are fresh out of school and seeking your first job, looking to make a career switch, or perhaps you’re one of the millions...