I have some advice for the new crop of PR graduates who will be receiving their diplomas in the next couple weeks: Don’t forget the cover letter when applying for jobs.
When I am reviewing résumés from job applicants, the most important component for me is the cover letter because it offers a snapshot of what this person can bring to our organization. It is the first thing I read when reviewing each candidate. I often decide to interview candidates – or not – based on their cover letter.
Why is the cover letter so important? It is your chance to succinctly:
- Separate yourself from the pack and speak directly to why we – or any company you are pursuing – should hire you
- Highlight your accomplishments that are most in line with the position you are seeking
- Show that you have proficient written communication skills, which are especially important in the PR field
Unfortunately, job seekers are trending away from including cover notes. One reason for this is that many applicants are applying through online job sites such as www.careerlink.com, and all they have to do is submit their résumé with a click of a mouse. It requires almost no thought, which is precisely the problem.
We are currently searching for a New Media Specialist, and in the job posting we specifically ask for a cover letter from those who want to be considered for the position. It is working; we have received cover notes with each résumé. The bad news for many job candidates is that their cover notes immediately place them in the “no” pile for any number of reasons. In order to keep this from happening to you in your job search, I offer three tips for compelling cover letters:
1) Be specific to the job
Many job applicants fail to mention the qualities they have that make them particularly well-suited for the job they are seeking. I received a cover letter recently that I ran through www.wordle.net to create a word cloud. The three most frequently used words in the cover letter were sales, closing and experience, but our job has nothing to do with sales. Your cover note must offer some proof that you have actually read the job posting.
2) Get to the point
Your letter doesn’t have to be long to be effective. In fact, the more succinct, the better. I recently received a cover letter that was a mere 57 words in length. I suggest providing slightly more information than this, but I did interview the author of the 57-word cover letter. Choose your words carefully and tell the prospective employer how your specific experience can benefit their organization.
3) Proofread your letter
The majority of cover letters we receive contain typos. Ask a friend or relative to proofread your résumé and cover letter. It is important to keep in mind that the one and only purpose of a cover letter (or résumé, for that matter) is to land an interview. To do this, you must make your best – error free – impression.
Writing successful cover letters is not easy; it requires research of the position and company, and introspection of your experience to determine if you have the right background for the job. But if done well, a cover letter can help you rise to the top in the selection process.