Tailor Your Cover Letter

Each time you apply for a job, you are sending an advertisement for a product, you and the work you are capable of doing, to a sales prospect, the employer.  The more you can learn about your prospect, the better you can tailor your sales pitch.  The key is tailoring your presentation to what is important to the prospect – not what is important to you.

Many job seekers send the same generic cover letter to every employer (or worse, fail to send any cover letter).  This might work if you were the only person sending out a resume and the employer was desperate to hire.  They won’t care what your sales pitch was.  This isn’t the situation, though.  We know there is a lot of competition for jobs.  You are not going to be the only option for an employer.  This makes it essential to craft the best sales pitch possible.

Gaining intelligence is an important first step.  The more you can learn about the priorities and expectations of the employer, the better your chances.  A hiring manager will be looking for much more than just someone who can do the job.  Hiring managers have specific objectives and will prioritize skills and abilities differently.  A lot of this comes from the team that is in place.  If a team is extremely strong in some areas and weaker in others, the hiring manager may prioritize the areas of weaker skills in order to elevate the team’s performance in this area.

If you can learn the specifics of a hiring manager’s goals, you can tailor to them.  To get this information, you need to network.  You have to meet people within the company and learn details about the organization few know.  The more you learn, the better your chances.  Networking takes time and effort, but it works.

Once you gather the research you need to tailor your cover letter, it’s time to get writing.  Your cover letter should be brief.  Your goal is to make a quick positive impressive and to generate interest in reading your resume.  Think of it like a car ad.  The purpose of the ad isn’t to sell you a car – it is to get you visit the showroom.  Your cover letter is like the ad – it needs to motivate the hiring manager to want to read your resume closely.  

There are number of elements of a cover letter you should customize.  First, you should have a specific statement why you are interested in the company.  This shows interest and that you have taken the time to research the company.  Most hiring managers will assess your resume more closely if you show you have put a lot of time into learning about their company.  Second, you should tailor the skills you highlight to the specific position and needs of the company.  This is where your research becomes incredibly valuable.  Finally, you should include a couple accomplishments showing your past successes with the skills you highlighted.  The accomplishments are the key to the presentation.  They show what you could accomplish for the company and will help you stand out from your competition.  The more you can tailor the accomplishments to the job, the better the impression you will make.

This may sound like you have to write a completely new cover letter for each application.  It’s actually a lot easier than this.  Once you develop a structure you like, you are just changing a little information.  It really doesn’t take much customization to develop a really strong cover letter.