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Become A Cover Letter Blackbelt

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Nov 7, 2018 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, Job Search Tips, Candidate

The better you sell yourself to potential employers, the better chances you have of landing the job. However, a job application is more than just a resume and a handful of references. This gives the company information on your background and a few numbers for people who will speak up for you. Beyond all this, you need something that will sell you to the company and highlight who you are past more than a few bullet points on a piece of paper. That's exactly what a cover letter is. It's a one-page document that showcases your talents and persuades the HR department, the hiring manager, or the owner doing the hiring to give you a call and bring you in for an interview. The problem most people run into is they don't know how to write up a great sounding cover letter. They use a bland formula that reads like every other cover letter. 

Some of the key points you need to learn about a cover letter include:

  • Length
  • Formatting
  • Writing tips

How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

It's always best to limit how much you talk about yourself. Without some limitations, it's possible to continue on and on. However, a hiring manager doesn't have time to read a thesis on why they should hire you. Instead, it needs to be short and to the point. It's your job to highlight what makes you great and why a company should hire you while leaving the reader wanting more. If you've ever read a great book, article or blog post that left you wanting more, it's not because the writer filled in every single detail with expository detail. It's because they engaged you, gave you breadcrumbs of great information along the way, then at the end, left you craving more. When a hiring manager wants to know more, they'll give you a call. 

A cover letter is exactly that. It covers everything you want the recruiter or HR department to know about you. Putting in too much information will lead to your letter ending up in the trash. Putting in too little and the reader will wonder why you're even applying for the job. So ideally, your cover letter should be no more than a full page, double-spaced. That is about 275 words. It's the elevator pitch of the written world (when you print or send the letter it should be single-spaced, but this gives you an idea as to how long it should be). 

According to Jobvite, 26 percent of recruiters deem cover letters as important. So it is influential, and you need to spend time on it, but it's not your only selling point. At the same time, just over half of applicants even provide cover letters with their job application. This means the 50 percent who did offer a letter instantly saw a boost in their candidacy by 26 percent. 

A cover letter is free advertising. Take advantage of it by writing out the single page selling yourself to the business. 

Formatting

Formatting for a cover letter is basic. You provide general information at the top and include your letter in the body. In the header of the letter, you include your name, and address, the company's name and address you're applying to, and the date. In the letter itself you'll include the job, why you're writing the letter, why you're a great fit for the job, what you can offer the company if you were to be hired, and your availability. All of that is enough to fill up your page.

Writing Tips

Don't linger too long on one topic. You only have so much space in your cover letter you don't want to drag on and then try to cram everything else into the last line or two. In general, each section covered above (outside of the contact, business and date information, which is placed in the header of the letter) should be a sentence or two. That's five sections. If you write two sentences on each, that's ten sentences. By covering everything in around two sentences or so you'll have a cover letter that answers all the necessary questions, doesn't linger too long, and gives the hiring manager enough to think about and consider. That's the point of the cover letter. As long as it helps improve the chance of the company giving you a call or an email, then it did its job. 

When writing your cover letter, don't send one giant blob of text. Break it up. It still needs to be easy to read. Every paragraph should be no more than four or five sentences (around two to three topics). This helps maintain a flow and makes it easy to read. In total, the entire cover letter should be around two or three paragraphs. 

Creating Your Perfect Cover Letter

Creating a cover letter doesn't need to be difficult. You can create a basic cover letter and fill in specific company information with each application. However, by becoming a black belt, you'll improve your ability to land a job interview. Contact ICS when you want to help further improve your hiring chances. 

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