Rasheen Carbin, of the new job matching app, nspHire, echoes a sentiment that I hear from many hiring managers who lament the amount of generic cover letters and irrelevant resumes they receive. “As a hiring manger, I see this as evidence that you’re applying for jobs en masse without any consideration as to your qualifications or fit.” It takes some effort to cater your materials to the company and role you are applying for, but it could be the difference between an interview and the trash folder.
Robots need not apply.
It’s hard to remember, especially when you are applying through an online job portal, that a live human being will read your cover letter. Address an actual person (rather than sir/madam), and inject some warmth and personality into the content of your note.
Every word counts.
Hiring managers go through a lot of paperwork during a search and the longer your cover letter, the less of it they are likely to absorb. Be brief and to the point. Remember- your goal is to make them want to interview you, at which point you can say everything you didn’t put in your email.
Make relevant experience pop.
Sometimes candidates send me different versions of their resumes; perhaps one that highlights digital experience and one that features their work in crisis communications. The facts on the resume remain the same, but the way you arrange the page tells us what to see first. Repeated key words will help a hiring manager to see you in a certain light, just as the sequencing of your bullet points shows them your most significant responsibilities in certain roles.
Highlight different roles within one organization.
If you’ve been at the same company in different roles, you’ll want to articulate your progression. If your jobs were similar in nature (i.e. Communications Associate, Manager of Corp. Communications, Director of Corp. Communications), you can list the jobs in a row and simply include all the details underneath the most recent or highest level job in that department. But if you served in very different capacities, it is appropriate to include different bullet points underneath each title.
Don’t let it come down to a comma.
If you’ve done all this good work, don’t risk your chances with something as silly as a grammatical or spelling error. For some hiring managers (especially those who are seeking communicators!), typos will seriously jeopardize your candidacy. This is one of the few things in the hiring process that is within your control, so take the time to proof and proof again.
Your cover letter and resume are your first impression. Do what you can to engage the person on the receiving end and demonstrate that you are particularly suited for this particular role at this particular organization.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.