The resume and the cover letter: two sides of the same token. Both vital to the job search and wholly representative of you as a prospective employee. Yet these two materials should be quite distinct from each other, creating a broad, engaging and appealing profile.
While a great resume provides a snapshot of your value-added, a cover letter gives a glimpse into your personality and place in the company or organization for whom you wish to work. By keeping the two distinct, you optimize the opportunity to showcase your best features and improve your chances of catching a hiring manager’s attention on some level.
I suggest writing your resume first. This process allows you to unearth critical accomplishments and reflect on your career story. After that, you’re better able to rephrase the highlights of your career in a voice that’s reflective of your unique “brand” and personality as an employee.
While every resume and cover letter should be tailored for each position you seek, the core messages remain the same. Here are a few key distinctions that will make your cover letter a powerful career tool:
The cover letter provides an opportunity for you to state, in all genuineness, what you admire about your prospective employer. Perhaps it’s an organization that’s seen tremendous growth over recent years. Maybe the organization has had a positive social impact in your community. Maybe they seem like a tight-knit group with a productive work environment.
Go to the company’s website and read it.
- What do they highlight in their “About” page?
- Have they been in the news for something recently?
- What’s the “vibe” or energy of their brand voice?
- What are they saying and doing on social media?
A little research goes a long way when writing a cover letter, and also better prepares you for common interview questions like, “What do you know about our company?” and “How do you see yourself fitting in here?”
When you’re able to articulate what draws you to the company, hiring managers are better able to understand where you’re coming from. You stand out in a sea of applicants and grab their attention. And, really, it’s all about them. So go ahead and flatter.
Warmth & Personality
The cover letter is the perfect venue to show a bit of your personality. While the resume is straightforward and concise with a solid dose of industry jargon, the cover letter is where you should write in a way that sounds more like you. Picture yourself writing to a coworker or boss that you really liked. The tone is professional yet friendly and warm.
Don’t be afraid to reveal your excitement about the job opportunity. Reveal your passion for your line of work. Be clear about why you are ideally suited for the role.
If you’ve properly researched the company and the position, you’ll be able to speak to the personality of their organization in a tone reflective of the job you seek.
The cover letter is where you can encapsulate the highlights of your career story.
First, where are you in your career and what are you poised to do? What experiences, professional and otherwise, will enable you to thrive in this position?
Next, think about yourself from an outsider’s point of view. What do your peers and superiors compliment you on? What are you known for doing very well? What are the threads and motifs of your employment history? Those are integral to your story. Mention them.
If you’ve already created your resume, look over it again. Can you condense your summary, profile, snapshot, and skills into just a few adjectives that would allow you to flourish in the desired position? Can you pull out 3 – 4 signature achievements that reveal just what you’re capable of accomplishing in the desired position?
Also, think about what skills you have, pertinent to this role, which might be undersold on your resume. Would your bilingualism, social media savvy or sales instincts give you a leg up? If they’re not integral to your current role, discuss them here. Show what you’re capable of bringing to the position outside of your resume.
Finally, do you have any explaining to do? Are there gaps in your career history? Did you change industries? Did you take a step down in seniority? If you feel these are obvious and unexplained resume weak points then clearly, concisely, and unapologetically explain them in your cover letter.
Call to Action
Unlike the relatively passive resume, which works mostly like a presentation, the cover letter can be a lively, engaging document that calls on the hiring manager to act.
No, you cannot convince HR to reach out to you if they don’t want to. But with a solid closing line that asks for follow-up, typically an interview, you reiterate your serious interest in the position and readiness to continue working for it.
Here are just a few calls to action that strike a balance between directness and courtesy:
- “I appreciate your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you soon.”
- “I welcome the opportunity to interview for this position and further discuss what value I can bring to your company.”
- “I would love the opportunity to discuss my candidacy in person. Thank you for your consideration.”
Job searching is daunting, and resume and cover letter writing are not easy. But with a distinct cover letter that conveys your story with warmth and personality and a resume that reveals your value as a potential employee, you’ve got an advantage from the start. For a free resume or cover letter audit, or for professional writing services, contact me anytime! – Leigh