How to Write Effective Cover Letters

cover-letter

In this post, we take the mystery out of cover letters. Not so much format and layout. Instead, we get to the meat of the matter. In other words, the content. I will help you get back to basics and stay on message so that you can get yourself that job interview! What do employers want to hear from you anyway? You may be surprised that it’s easier than you think. Click the play button in the video above or read the transcript below.


Inside The Application Process

Hi everyone, this is Anthem Salgado representing artofhustle.com. I received an email recently asking for advice on how to make an effective cover letter. So that’s what we’ll be talking about today. I am happy to be sharing this information because I’ve been on the receiving side of having to sift through hundreds of cover letters. I learned very, very quickly in having to be a reader of so many submissions what makes an effective cover letter. I’m going to share this piece of advice for you that I hope you’ll be able to translate in your application processes.

The First Thing to Consider

The first thing you’re going to want to consider is that just because you’re writing something that you’ll print or send via email, it doesn’t make it any less of a conversation than if you were having a dialogue with somebody in person, and in real time. That means the job call is the beginning of a dialogue. As a person writing a cover letter, it is your responsibility to listen, listen, listen, and then respond. For instance, if you were talking to somebody and they were talking about movies, and then all of a sudden you said something like, “I really like pizza,” it might be kind of random. And you understand that that is inappropriate and random in real conversation. But you would be surprised how many people are actually writing cover letters where they are not responding to the initial conversational prompt, which is the job call. So just practice good old-fashioned manners and heed what is being relayed to you by the job call.

In fact, I like this metaphor because in a sense you repeat back what you’ve heard to let them know that you’ve heard them. This is sort of polite, and it’s good way to kind of keep the conversation going. So if someone says, I really enjoy watching “Glee”, you might say something like, “I watch Glee and my favorite character is…” Or “That’s fantastic because I think prime time television is going in a really interesting direction these days.” The point being is you respond to what you’re given, and what you’re given is the job call.

So many people end up writing cover letters that are just templates, which is the wrong thing to do or they write things that are just monologues, pre-written monologues that have nothing to do with a job call. Very ineffective. And like I said, if you were doing this in real time conversation, it would be very obvious to you and everybody else that you’re way out of sync and way off the mark. Just because it’s digital or just because it’s on paper, it doesn’t make it any less appropriate to respond as you would in a conversation. And by that I mean, listen, and react to the information that you’ve been given.

Putting It In Order

Let’s go over what the basic format would look like. A format that I actually learned in high school, which is that of the persuasive essay. And this is how it goes. First paragraph, cite your argument. In the second, third, and fourth paragraph give supporting reasons, and in the last paragraph give your conclusion. It’s that easy. Now I’m going to walk you through it.

So your first paragraph of your cover letter, there’s no creativity really needed at all. You say who you are, what job your applying for, how you found out about it, and one sentence that says why you think your qualified for this particular position.

When you get to the second paragraph, you’re going to repeat back words that they’ve already given you through the job call. So for instance, if the job call says something like, “This position requires a minimum of five years management experience.” You will say in your first sentence of the next paragraph, “I have six years of management experience.” Or “I have ten years of management experience.” And then you will continue to describe your management experience in the next three or four sentences; short paragraph.

Next paragraph let’s say in the job call they said something like, “This position requires someone who has proficiency in dealing with people from different cultural backgrounds.” Then you would say, “I have proficiency in working with people from different cultural backgrounds.” Like you would repeat back what they’re already giving you, and then in the next two to three sentences of that paragraph give supporting details. You could say, “I worked at this organization, and did this thing, and I performed this function at this organization, and I successfully did this for this other organization.” Whatever it is that supports that first sentence.

And then in the next paragraph again, let’s say the job call says something like, “Minimum requirement is expertise in Photoshop and video editing.” You would literally repeat back the thing that they’ve already asked you for. “I have expertise in Photoshop, and video editing.” And then in the next three or four sentences, you would describe your experience with that particular thing.

Don’t Make Stuff Up

What I’m showing you here is don’t make stuff up. Really pay attention to what the job call is asking for, and respond appropriately. In the last paragraph you’ll simply say something to effect of, “Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and discussing the possibility of working with you in order to help you reach your goals” or something like that. But the last paragraph is something simple. You don’t, don’t go overboard. Sincerely and then your name, and then your contact information under your name of course.

Interpreting The Job Call

Where it gets a little bit tricky is sometimes job calls are really, really, really, really long, and that could drive you nuts because you’re like, “What’s important because I’ve got to narrow it down”. Well, look for the thing that’s specific for that job. So I’ll give you an example. A lot of job calls will say as a requirement, “Excellent written, and verbal communication skills.” That is so generic and so applicable to so many different positions that you wouldn’t even really address it because it’s a given. You want to attack the thing that’s specific to that job. And in that sense, you have to listen, metaphorically speaking, listen extra carefully, read between the lines and see which skills are the ones that really stand out for this position. And if you need help, ask somebody. You don’t have to be an expert writer. Be brave enough to ask someone who might be able to help you with the writing or to interpret the actual job call. Because sometimes they’re a little bit tricky.

Listen

If you come away with one thing, just remember this, listen to the job call as you would in a real conversation, repeat back what people are asking for, and make sure you provide supportive evidence of the thing that you say you’re capable of doing. In my opinion, you’re going to want to give three to five supportive pieces so that would be three to five mini paragraphs after your intro and before your conclusion. I like three to five because odd numbers depending on who you ask are more dynamic than even numbers. That’s just my personal preference. I think that should work out really well for you.

Thank you for watching this video. If you have more questions, just holler at me. I am at artofhustle.com.


Know anyone needing to score work? Please pass this post on so they can feel more confident about their application process. Naturally, any additional tips on writing cover letters that you may want to share are welcome in the comment space below. Thank you!

 
 
 

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2 responses to “How to Write Effective Cover Letters”

  1. […] How to Write Effective Cover Letters ART OF HUSTLE As a person writing a cover letter, it is your responsibility to listen, listen, listen, and then respond. For instance, if you were talking to somebody and they were talking about movies, and then all of a sudden you said something like, “I really like …http://www.artofhustle.com/201 .. […]

  2. […] Hear advice straight from the source! A hiring manager shares his cover letter tips in this article and […]

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