Modern cover letters first gained popularity in the 1950s, following the rise of white collar jobs. As we weary job seekers know, cover letters remain a mainstay of corporate staffing and career management to this day. They haven’t changed much. But, many hiring managers admit that they don’t read cover letters. So as an applicant, how can you respect cover letter traditions but still create a modern letter can actually grab attention and get you hired?
We have one cover letter tip that does just this: Write a cover letter focused on your reader’s perspective, not your own. Identify their needs, and how you can help. It may seem simple, but it requires re-thinking the traditional cover letter. Let’s break the ideas into parts.
In the staffing and management world, experts are beginning to recognize what common sense already suggests: for group success, nothing matters more than empathy. Nobody can run a company alone. If a large team of people expects to move forward efficiently, all team members need to see the world from multiple points of view. If you hope to find a place for yourself on such a team, you need to focus on your manager’s needs in your cover letter.
As entrepreneur Lisa Siva explains, a successful cover letter highlights the reader’s needs and pain points. Once these are identified, the applicant can present herself as the perfect solution. When you write, use empathy. Check out the example below and see the next section for more insights.
“As a chocolatier, I know how stressful holidays can be. You probably have a line out the door right now.”
Specific problems need specific answers
Every company has problems. But if you can demonstrate your understanding of the specific problems your reader faces, you’ll highlight your professional experience and worldly wisdom. Get as close as you can by using careful research, educated guesses, and your tenure with similar companies. You can frame your sentences by using empathetic statements like, “I know it’s not easy to (fill in the blank) … during the busy season,” or “In the retail business, the holidays are rushed and chaotic.”
Once you’ve demonstrated your understanding of a specific problem, follow this cover letter tip and explain how your own specific experience or skill base can make that problem go away.
Don’t be afraid of negativity
We’re often told to keep every interaction relentlessly positive during the job search. That’s good advice — to a point. But no manager wants to read a letter full of cheerfully empty abstractions (“I’m a real go-getter and I’m driven to excel!”). Sometimes, to send a positive message, it helps to be direct and even a little harsh. When it comes to highlighting your manager’s likely stressors and pain points, don’t hold back.
For example, “I know that following your recent cutbacks and big market shifts, you’re understaffed and you’re being asked to move mountains using extremely limited resources.”
Swoop to the rescue
As you describe your unique ability to solve problems and make money for the company, again, be specific. Highlight the skills and qualities you bring to the table that no other candidate can offer. Be clear, firm, and focused. You’re here to do a job, a job that few others can handle. It’s time to cut through the noise and get you on the team.
For more this cover letter tip and other insightful ideas, turn to the tools on MyPerfectResume.