How to write the killer cover letter

The cover letter is dead, right? Surely, in 2017, in the age of gamified recruitment processes and video interviews, the archaic art of cover letter writing must have been confined to the job application dustbin by now?

Well, a 2015 survey by Jobvite did find that 55% of hiring managers don’t even bother to read them. That might lead you to assume that, yes, the cover letter is indeed dead.

But that would be a mistake – and a big one at that.

Standing out in a job search is always a challenge. But the truth is that there are few better ways of telling your story, delivering a ‘career pitch’ to a would-be employer, or highlighting strengths that simply don’t jump out from the page of CV, than writing a cover letter. A cover letter is also a brilliant way to get your personality across – whether you opt for a subtle sprinkling of it over the letter, or you’re bold and really make your mark with an indelible personality stamp. That choice is yours.

Okay, so if the surveys are to be believed then statistically, yes, the odds are against you. But, as they say, he/she who dares, wins.

And, as clued-up recruiters will tell you – there’s nothing quite as powerful and engaging as a superbly-crafted cover letter.

The problem with conventional cover letters is just that – they have become little more than a convention of the job application process. Candidates write them because they think they should. But, because many see them as an inconvenient part of an unwieldy and long-winded process, they end making a half-hearted attempt.

Bland, pedestrian, predictable – these are the adjectives that would accurately describe the majority of cover letters. They become an unconvincing attempt at expressing an interest in a position. Stock phrases, well-worn clichés and buzzwords proliferate – it’s no wonder that hiring managers got into the habit of not reading them.

You have a choice. You can just plod on and do things in the same way, but you shouldn’t be surprised that you keep getting the same results.

Or, you could follow the secret formula to writing the killer cover letter. It is a 3-step process and it’s remarkably simple.

Step 1 is identifying the problem. There is a problem lying at the root of every single job posting. If there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be a vacancy. The tricky bit is finding out what it is. It will very rarely be spelled out for you in the advert, you have to hunt to find it.

A good way to do this is to start with the list of responsibilities in the job spec. Ask yourself, Why? Why is this so important? Digging around like this will mean you are getting under the skin of the company. Once you’ve zeroed in on the problem, you can get to work on it. Start your letter with an opening statement that makes it clear you have honed in on this crucial problem.

Step 2 is to go one step further and agitate the problem. You reinforce the size of the problem. Remind the hiring manager of it again so it’s uncomfortably at the front of their mind and thinking just how much they need to find a solution to this pesky problem.

Then, you deliver your knock-out blow. Step 3 is to serve up the solution. That solution, of course, is you! Make it clear how and why you are the perfect solution and the answer to all their prayers, and sign off with confidence.

The competition will have sworn down dead that they are ‘passionate’ and ‘hard working’ in their own cover letters. Follow this killer cover letter formula and you, however, will have already proved it.

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