Cover Letters Matter
A cover letter is your chance to present yourself as a terrific match with the employer's needs as laid out in the job posting and description of responsibilities and qualifications. You need to convince them that you have the goods to be able to do this job superlatively. The cover letter makes the case for why you are the right person for the job – or at least gives the reader compelling reasons to interview you and learn more.
• It is your opportunity to anticipate any objections and respond to them.
• It is your chance to demonstrate your writing and communication skills, as well as any persuasive and strategic positioning abilities you have gained through the years.
As with every piece of good writing, it will require several drafts and revisions for you to come up with a cover letter that captures your essence, marries your abilities to the needs of the job, and yet does not go on and on. A page or at most a page and a half are sufficient to make your case. We want the employer to be interested enough to read your resume and call you for an interview.
There are some key factors to make the cover letter compelling to the employer and increase your chances of getting an interview.
Your resume is focused on your past while the job posting is focused on the future.
Prospective employers are focused on their own needs, and how you are able to meet those needs - they don't need or want to know a whole lot about where you are now. The job of the cover letter is demonstrating that you understand and can meet the employer's needs.
I recommend using past experience and accomplishments to illustrate how you have and therefore can do the job THEY have.
• Why do you want to do this job or work?
• How does it flow out of your past experiences?
• How does what you have done in the past prepare you to meet their needs?
Infuse into your letter your enthusiasm for this position as a logical next step in your career, as well as the perfect fusion of their needs and your abilities.
63-70% of jobs are filled by networking and referrals of business colleagues.
Most jobs go to people who are somehow familiar to the person doing the hiring. A personal referral makes the employer more comfortable meeting someone; it's less of a risk when you get a referral from someone you trust. Even with an introduction, it behooves you to stand out as someone relatively familiar with and to the person doing the hiring. Become a familiar face!
Go through the employer's website and become more familiar with what they do. Pick out a couple of their services and see if you want to target them in your cover letter, using key phrases or words. Here's one example from a consulting firm that specializes in real estate-related services.
They say in Facilities Management: "how to operate facilities with maximum efficiency, safety and employee comfort—and dramatically reduce costs in the process." Use phrases like "maximum efficiency" and "employee comfort" as well as "dramatically reduce costs" somewhere in your cover letter - perhaps referring to your previous accomplishments or responsibilities.
In Project and Development Services, they say: "Their collaborative approach is managed by a dedicated project manager who serves as your single point of contact and accountability. Of course, being the best means more than driving projects to on-time, on-budget completion. Our real estate project managers can quickly scale up or down to address your company’s changing needs and the asset types in your portfolio. Whatever the scope, we’ll work with you to set measurable goals and then achieve them—together." Lift some language from this, such as "collaborative approach" and "driving projects" or "on-time, on-budget completion."
Using language directly from the employer's website subliminally conveys that you already understand the place and will fit in. You literally "speak their language."
Employers want to be wanted, very wanted
Employers today can afford to be picky and the more I read, the more I see postings imply or say directly that they want "true believers" in their business goals and mission. They will be looking for evidence of this, and many people will state their belief explicitly. To not address probably will put you out of the running. Even if you are not completely passionate about the mission, act as if you are. We are never 100% anything, so unless you have a visceral disgust for the business purpose or mission, you are allowed to apply if you generally support the cause.
If you have the background to demonstrate your synchronicity with their work, do so. Make an effort to point out your thematic resonance with their mission, pointing out how everything you've done in the past has led you to this position. That is compelling reasoning, shows you put real some thought into the cover letter, demonstrates that you want the job enough to work for it, and may in fact have the passion they want.