By Dorcas Karuana,
First of all, let’s agree the ONLY purpose of the cover letter is to get someone to want to read your CV. It is NOT a recap of your resume or a short story of how you moved from job to job.
Many hiring managers use your cover letter to gauge your interest in the company, as well as your aptitude for the job. Therefore, when you resort to “Dear Sir, I’m interested in your open job, here’s my resume,” you’re missing out on a critical chance to persuade employers to take you seriously.
50% of employers don’t read cover letters and the others scan it in 5-10 seconds, it should therefore be short, easy to read and compelling. So how do you craft a cover letter that quickly captures their attention?
Here are five of the most crucial mistakes made in cover letters—those that can quickly knock you out of the running for a leadership job:
1.Your opening line was boring- Do not start your letter this way; “I am a Marketing Executive with 5 years of experience,” or “In response to your ad for an Administrative Assistance, I have enclosed my resume.” This is not compelling enough to use as opening statements. Instead, try a hook that makes the hiring manager sit up straight in his or her chair, as in this example: “As a Sales Executive for ABC Company, I’ve increased customer satisfaction to 97% in 3 outsourcing engagements—pushing our revenue growth to its peak despite the recession. I’m interested in creating the same results for you.” Note each of these sentences contains statistics, a targeted job title, and a career-defining achievement that is framed in context and laid out quickly for the reader to absorb. Ensure you speak precisely to the employer’s pain points while describing the performance impact you’ve had in previous roles. Your opening line should also leverage the research you’ve done on the company, per the next point.
2. You didn’t demonstrate the ability to solve the employer’s problems. – Showing off a list of competencies isn’t strong enough to distinguish you from other candidates, but speaking directly to the company’s needs will do the trick. You have to dig into the company’s history, press releases, annual reports, and other news to figure out their pain points. What type of expansion is planned? Were earnings down in previous quarters? What do industry analysts say about the company’s future and their business strategy? Armed with this information, you’re able to connect your leadership skills to the employer’s needs much more succinctly: For instance, “My ability to produce business development results; (30% rise in ABC Company sales during Q4 2010) can address any struggles you’ve had in breaking into this market. Can we talk?”
3. Your key points don’t match (or exceed) the job requirements.- Like CVs, cover letters must be precise and direct the reader…keeping them attentive to the reasons they should hire you and the edge your work can give them. While you’re writing, put the job description in front of you to remind yourself what the employer is seeking. Then, look for ways to point out how you can surpass these expectations. For example, a Sales Director may say; “In your ad I noted that you require a leader in service delivery and customer satisfaction. My career includes 3 years of 97% satisfaction ratings, achieved by improving infrastructure and network capacity, and I hold responsive service as my first priority.”
4. You didn’t address the letter to an actual person. – Finding a contact name inside the company has never been easier. Taking the time to locate a name (vs. resorting to “Dear Hiring Manager”) will help your letter create more impact at a target employer.
5. You forgot to be assertive. – If your closing line isn’t strong, you run the risk of looking too passive. Most of us end your letters with these words, “Thank you in advance for reviewing my credentials.” This is certainly polite and professionally stated. If pursuing a senior-level role, employers like to see a take-charge style. For instance, be more forceful by saying; “I plan to exceed your requirements as your next Finance Officer,” and “I am confident that I can demonstrate the leadership you look for in your next F.O.” This is stronger. Even more intense, “I will follow up with you next Tuesday,” shows definite intent on your part to influence the hiring audience, and gives them advance notice of the proactive steps you’ll take to secure the interview.