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Cutting Edge Cover Letters

In May Microsoft published an interesting study detailing research on the changes in our attention spans over the last several years. From 2000 to 2013 our attention spans dropped from 12 seconds to a mere eight seconds. We now have an attention span 1 second shorter than that of a goldfish.

Let that sink in for a minute … Which makes me wonder … What effect does dwindling attention span have on our job searches—and our cover letters? It means the cover letter as we know it is dead.

how to write cover letters staffiohr

HOW WE WRITE COVER LETTERS NOW
  • Super text-dense, making up one full page—sometimes more—in content.
  • A long-winded introduction that doesn’t add value to the candidate but merely states where you heard about the position and why you may be interested.
  • A lengthy body of text consisting of 2-3 paragraphs—that typically either repeats points in the resume or tries to make a connection between experience and the position to which you’re applying.
  • A long closing paragraph—which may or may not include a follow-up method or contact information.
  • Some people get carried away and delve into a long career narrative or life story.

HOW WE NEED TO WRITE COVER LETTERS – Also referred to as an E-Note, Power Note, Pain Letter or Value Proposition Letter.

1. Don’t Regurgitate Your Resume

Instead of just repeating yourself (“I was in charge of reviewing invoice disputes”), use your cover letter to describe additional details that you weren’t able to squeeze onto the single page of your resume: “By resolving invoice disputes, I gained a deep analytical knowledge—but more importantly, I learned how to interact calmly and diplomatically with angry customers.” A cover letter gives you the freedom to use full sentences—instead of bullet points—so use them to expand upon your resume points and tell the story of why you’re the perfect fit for the company.

2. Think Not What the Company Can Do for You

A common cover letter mistake? Talking about how great the position would be for you and your resume. Frankly, hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company. On that note:

3. Clearly Show What You’re Capable Of

Beyond explaining what you’ve done in the past, show hiring managers what you can do in the future. “Determine the key requirements and priorities for this job, and make it instantly clear to the reviewer that you can deliver the goods on these key things.” 

“Consider crafting a section within the letter that begins with, ‘Here’s what, specifically, I can deliver in this role.’ And then expound upon your strengths in a few of the priority requirements for that role.” 

4. Tell a Story

What brings you to this company? Did you used to sing along to all of its commercials as a kid? Did the product make some incredible difference in your life? Do you sometimes pull into the parking lot and daydream about what it would feel like to work there? Stories bring your background and experiences to life, so feel free to tell them. (Just, you know, keep them short and to the point.) 

5. Use a Few Numbers

When it comes to the job search, numbers often speak louder than words. “Offer stats to illustrate your impact on companies or associations you’ve worked for in the past.” 

“Employers love to see numbers—it shows them that you speak their language and that you understand what they’re looking for in an employee: results.”

6. Be Real

“Honest, genuine writing always goes much, much further than sticking to every dumb rule you’ve ever read in stale, outdated career guides and college textbooks,”

7. Cut the Fluff

Avoid, at all costs, describing yourself as a “team player” or a “people person.”  

“Instead, show off your skills with descriptive statements like ‘I’m an expert communicator with experience bringing together diverse departments to develop a cohesive program.’ It’s longer—but it’s also stronger.”

 

A Formula to Follow

  Use the following point to keep your e-note creation easy. You won’t have to start from scratch every time you write a new one, and writing will be easier and faster.

Remember to keep each point short!
  1. Engage or fascinate
  2. Target the need
  3. You are the solution
  4. Prove it!
  5. Money – Employers want to know how you made it, saved it, or contributed to it
  6. Brand – Make the connection
  7. Close with a call to action
  8. Edit – 150 words or fewer
Perhaps the best piece of cover letter wisdom we can offer you: The most memorable cover letters are written by people who care less about the rules and more about standing out to the hiring manager. 

“Next time you sit down to write a cover letter, vow to not get uptight about all the tiny little ‘rules’ you’ve picked up along the way.”. Instead, buck convention. Be memorable. Nail the stuff that will make you a true standout.”

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