When hiring managers and HR pros open a candidate's cover letter and begin to read, they typically take an active approach to the process. This means they don't just allow the letter to wash over them; instead, they search for specific details and cues that can tell them something about the candidate's readiness for the position. And they also look for insights into a candidate's personality. After all, most hiring managers aren't just looking for someone who can handle the requirements of the job—they're also looking for a candidate who will adapt to the culture of the workplace. They need someone who will fit in, make friends, earn respect, and find a sense of personal satisfaction in this specific environment. With that in mind, here are a few of the details your readers will be looking for.
Especially at the entry level, reviewers use cover letters to assess a candidate's preparation for adult responsibilities. A letter that contains text-speak, for example, can be a serious red flag (absolutely no "LOLs" or "Jks" should appear in your letter—ever). The same applies to a letter that's loaded with apologetic language, nervous rambling, or too many exclamation points. Make sure your letter conveys a sense of competence and experience, even if this job will be your first professional gig.
A wooden or robotic tone can make a candidate seem rude and stand-offish, even when this is far from the truth. Of course your letter will need to be polite, but soften the edges of your statements by including friendly remarks about the company, varying the length of your sentences, and varying your sentence structure to create a sense of flow. Don't begin every sentence with "I," and while you're at it, make the reader the subject of some of your sentences instead of yourself. (As in: "You're looking for a candidate with a sense of initiative and an excellent sales record.")
If you're willing to accept an on-call schedule, a high degree of travel, or a job that might extend into evenings and weekends, make this clear. If you're willing to step outside of the basic job responsibilities outlined in the post, this is also a plus. Let your employers know that you aren't just a one-trick candidate. You'll do whatever it takes to help this company succeed, even if you don't yet know what that might entail.
The tone of your letter and the details you choose to provide can generate a strong sense of confidence and self-reliance. Or not. If you're desperate for approval, this will show. So keep your tone cool and collected, and stay focused on what you have to offer, not what you're eagerly hoping your readers will give you.
Where would you like to take your career three, five, or ten years into the future? Do you have a long term plan in mind, and are you hoping that this job will take you a step closer to wherever you'd like to go? If so, share this long-term plan in your letter. This can accomplish two goals: it will let your reviewers know that you have a sense of passion and personal ambition, and it will also help them determine if your goals align with those of the company.
Let Your Cover Letter Be Your Voice
Think of your cover letter as a valuable opportunity, an opportunity to let your readers know something about who you are and what it might be like to work beside you all day long. If you have what it takes to adapt quickly and thrive in this new culture, your potential employers should know. Visit MyPerfectResume for resume and cover letter tools that can help you send this message.