By: Katelyn Six, Section Editor for Block Beat (email@example.com)
From online job applications to professional networking sites, it often seems like the human touch is the missing piece in the job-hunt puzzle. The transition from in-person to online has made it more challenging than ever to land that perfect job after graduation. With a degree from a prodigious university in hand, internship experience under your belt and the drive to succeed in mind, there is one thing holding college students and recent graduates back from scoring their dream job – the perfect cover letter!
It is no secret that a properly formatted resume free of egregious errors is crucial to getting that first job interview, but many students overlook their cover letter, a possibly more important element when seeking post-graduation employment. According to a recent OfficeTeam study surveying senior managers at mid-sized companies, “ninety-one percent of the more than 1,000 executives queried say cover letters are either somewhat or very valuable when evaluating a job candidate.” With unemployment rates skyrocketing, it comes as no surprise that breaking into today’s competitive workforce is nothing short of a herculean feat. Here are a few cover letter tweaks and tips that are sure to get your foot in the door:
1. Proofread, proofread, and did I mention to proofread?
According to Innovations Editor at Slate, Katherine Goldstein, “It is not uncommon for me to get 100 applications for one spot, so I’m constantly looking for reasons not to advance a candidate to the interview round.” So, even the tiniest of mistakes in grammar, syntax or punctuation may forfeit you the job. That means proofreading your cover letter is key to ensuring your application does not end up in the wastebasket. However, finding errors in your own writing can be tough, since you are so close to the project. As a twist on the classic idiom, it is often difficult to see the trees for the forest! One technique to combat this is to write a rough draft of the cover letter, step away from it and revisit it in five minutes to proofread. With a fresh eye, you will be more likely to catch simple mistakes that may have cost you that dream job!
2. Be creative, not silly.
Getting noticed is one of the most salient aspects to consider when drafting your cover letter. While creativity sets your application apart from the rest, if done incorrectly, it can be the nail in your potential career coffin. Vivian Giang runs the Careers vertical at Business Insider, and she explains that “trying to figure out ways to be creative may be difficult, but don’t go overboard out of desperation.” Therefore, be original and unique in your writing, but always keep in mind that a cover letter is a professional document, not a comic book.
3. Keep it short and sweet.
It is natural to want to write a lengthy cover letter filled with a plethora of reasons to explain why you are the best candidate for the position to which you are applying. However, as Luke Roney, author of How to Write a Knock-’em-Dead Cover Letter, writes, “ avoid long sentences and big blocks of unbroken text” and “ keep your sentences short, direct, and active.” The first thing a potential employer will do upon receiving your application is scan your cover letter. The only thing a dauntingly long cover letter will accomplish is to make your future boss’s eyes glaze over. To sidestep this faux pas, use bullet points to highlight your key skills and try not to ramble on and on about your life story.
In a nutshell, a cover letter is the first line of communication between you and future employers. With hundreds of job-seekers pining for the same job, hiring managers are forced to use a high level of discretion when sifting through the bounty of applications in-pouring. Hence, your cover letter is the first thing employers see. Most times, your resume will not even get a first glance if there is nothing riveting in your letter that sets you apart from other applicants with similar credentials. However, following these cover letter writing tips may ensure that your resume lands at the top of the employment pile.