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Many years ago, when men still rode on the back of dinosaurs, I got my job. Okay, maybe that’s dramatizing things, but when I was in high school, I got a job as a waitress. It was at a brunch place where I had to go to work at 6 am in the morning on weekends. I can tell you it was horrific.
The only time I was happy was when I got the free meals or my paychecks. Don’t get me wrong! Everyone was friendly there – well not really. The waitress was a complete bi-
Anyways, at that time I didn’t have to create a resume or write a cover letter because I got the job through my high school counselor – Go connections!
Thank goodness because I knew the first thing in writing neither.
My first cover letter occurred when I was in college. I had to write a cover letter for a job I wanted as a water treatment facility. I got the job, but not the position I wanted. So, in the end, I turned it down and worked at my usual post.
I may not have a ton of experiences compared to other people when writing a cover letter – since I wrote maybe five for jobs. However, every single one of my cover letters had been a hit, and I got a job offer off of it, so I must be doing something right!
Here are some steps and tips I take when creating a neatly formed professional cover letter:
1. The Basic – The Head
* Irrelevant, but I just thought of something unprofessional – chuckling silently to myself
A cover letter is a document which explains why you’re sending in the resume and adds extra information. It’s used to serve as a cover for a resume – during a time when people still court and hunted mammoths with their sharp weapon.
The basics always come first.
What to include:
Name of the hiring manager + profession
Name + address of the company
Honestly, I wouldn’t include too much personal information because they are going to do a background check later onward. If they wanted more information about your history, then they will ask! Sometimes, including too much personal details can be a bad thing.
Separate your social and professional life:
Use an email address from a respected provider—Gmail or your personal domain (if you have one.) – Not IamaDirtyUnicorn69@Rocketmail.com
Your email address should include your first and last name and if it’s taken then include some numbers – the year of your birth or a particular date – keep it short and sweet.
*Note: Don’t use your current work email.
Believe it or not – I had a @rocketmail email before on my resume. I still got the jobs I applied for, but looking back now I wonder if I could’ve gotten a different (more professional) job if I didn’t use that email. I have no idea what drove me to use that, but maybe it’s because I had it for so long already. I was merely too lazy to change or get a new one.
Who do you address the cover letter?
Directly to the hiring manager –
That’s right. The name.
Cue the dramatic background music!
IamShook: “Do I use first or last name?”
That depends on the company you’re applying. If you’re applying for a position with a relaxed, casual company, use the first name. For corporate cover letters, it’s safer to go with the addressee’s last name. When in doubt – choose last!
Iamafreshgraduate: “How do I find out the hiring manager’s name?”
Iamafreshgraduatetoo: “Crack open that laptop (if it’s not already open) and began your amateur skill as a stalker!”
If you’re unable to find the name, you’ll need to write a cover letter to whom it may concern. I am guilty of using this for three out of five of my cover letters because I was too lazy to research whom I am writing it towards. Sometimes, this is referred to as the safety zone because the person emailing you may not be the same person who will read your letter.
Sometimes, companies like to move the candidates around to have a different point of view whether the candidates should be hired.
3. Main Course
The central paragraphs of your cover letter.
Let’s break it down to the three-paragraph cover letter format.
The first paragraph is where you grab the hiring manager’s attention, second is to show what you’ve got to offer (this may be the most crucial step), and third is how to close it properly.
Imagine you’re the hiring manager and after a fun weekend with your friends at the bar, drinking tequila like there’s no tomorrow. You waltz home realizing you have over 50 cover letters to read. Monday morning rolled around, and you’re still hung over, attempting to read the words, but with each letter, you sipped more energy because – you got to get through this!
Okay, maybe that’s dramatizing things a little bit especially since you should never drink on a Sunday night – I mean who does that?
Moving forward, your cover letter arrived after you read roughly 14 others.
Now, ask yourself:
Is it boring?
You read 14 cover letters from 14 other individuals who want the same position you do. You thought your message was different and unique, but it turned out they also feel the same thing.
I rarely write cover letters, but I do read a lot of them – friends, employees, co-workers, etc.
Once I even read a cover letter from three friends who are applying for the same job! They didn’t also have to tell me because I knew based on the similarity of their letters. They wrote the same things with almost the same reasons why they should get the job.
Because they are writing what they think the hiring manager wants to read.
If you think that way, writing inside what you deemed as the guidelines, then you are doomed because a bunch of others is doing the same thing.
I even asked my friends if they sat together and did their resumes together – they said they didn’t even know that they are all applying for the same job.
Don’t write what you assume the hiring manager wants to read because trust me – they read the same thing over and over and over.
What do you have to offer?
They know what they can offer you – healthcare, dental care, insurances, paychecks, paid vacation, etc.
Now, it’s your turn to tell them what you can offer them. Each candidate has something to offer which can be hard work, skills, dedication, effectiveness. We all heard and read those words before, making it completely overkill. You should already be a hard worker, held the qualifications for the job you want (sometimes), dedicated, and productive at work. If you aren’t then why would they hire you?
You want to throw something different in the table – something that other candidates cannot offer (maybe because you don’t know what they can offer)
For example, when I was applying for the water treatment position, I had no experience in laboratory words except for some lab classes at school. In all ends, I felt like I wasn’t going to get the job because hundreds of other candidates probably had more experience than me.
*Note: Do not undervalue yourself!
So, I decided to throw a curve ball and discussed the water experiment I did at my workplace with my kids – they aren’t my kids, just children I work with. I explained what we had to use and how I taught the children about the safeness of clean water. It was fun, engaging, and different where the hiring manager said she laughed while reading the letter. She said, “It made my day” and banged offered me a job right on the table.
Iwantajob: “How did you relate teaching kids about clean water to a water treatment facility?”
Igotajob: “That’s easy”
I discussed how I taught the children about the different instruments – microscope, pipettes, etc. I taught them about safeness, which indicated I know the safety protocols. It also showed that if I can teach whatever topic in front of a group of individuals, then I know the topic relatively well.
Hence, she liked it.
She said, “It caught my attention when you included the word – children.” The hiring manager thought it was odd seeing such a word because she never read a cover letter that discusses children and so she kept reading.
That’s what you want – engagement.
The cover letter doesn’t have to be perfect, because it makes you seem robotic. You want to allow your personality to shine through the letter because that’s the only way your employer can truly peek at the person you are (resume doesn’t tell who you are – merely your work history).
The last part of how to format a cover letter is the ending, or some may refer to it as, the closure.
Close with a thank you, space, and then your name.
Do you have to…thank them?
There are a dozen ways to close a cover letter, but these are my favorite two:
Sincerely, (This is the one I typically use)
There you go! Those are the steps I take whenever I write my cover letters!
The first cover letter you write may seem stressful, but that’s normal. If you don’t get the job, that’s okay. You can always contact the hiring manager and ask why you didn’t get the position to improve your resume or cover letter. It doesn’t hurt to ask – trust me. You don’t want passive praise; you want critical criticism because that will drive you to become a better employee and person.
Now, you know the steps! Get your job!