How to Tailor Your Job Application Cover Letter – In 3 Easy Steps

Executive Cover LetterThe cover letter you send with your resume when applying for a job is all about generating interest, enthusiasm and action from your reader. But if you don’t tailor your cover letter specifically for each job that you apply for, it simply won’t attract the interest you desire from the hiring authority.

A third of the people you write a job application letter to will always read it. A third might read it if it captures their attention and “speaks to them” about what they’re looking for in a candidate, and the other third will never read it. The thing is, you never know which category your audience falls under, so it’s vital that your cover letter is unique each and every time; written to a specific person, with a distinctive message. However, your ultimate purpose will always be the same—to “ask” for an interview. Of course you can’t just send a note asking for an interview; there are several important boxes to tick.

Below I’ve set out a 3 step guide to tailoring your cover letter for each job application. Follow this method effectively, and (assuming you have a captivating resume and LinkedIn profile to compliment your cover letter) just watch your inbox light up with job offers.

Step 1: Gather up all of your career experience, projects, qualifications, skills, and achievements including challenges and quantifiable results where possible, which you should already have (hopefully!) in your resume.

Step 2: Refer to the job description and identify the specific needs of the company or recruiter. If their requirements, challenges or issues aren’t easily identifiable, do some research into the company, industry and other similar roles to obtain this information.

Step 3: Now you must position yourself as the solution to the specific needs you have identified. For example, if you know the finance organisation you’re applying to, for say a Senior Project Manager role, requires someone with extensive experience in an agile environment, be sure to tell them about your experience strategically digitising business in agile environments (or whatever the case may be), including the challenges you overcame during this time, and the results of your actions. This is just one example, but you get the idea. Do this for all of the requirements and challenges you have identified as critical to the employer/recruiter. Ideally, you should be able to fit this neatly into one page, although this isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule.

If you’re changing career direction, you’ll need to dig a little deeper and also focus on the further development of your resume to ensure you’re addressing the key points of the job description effectively with your transferable skills and experience.

In their book Cover Letter Magic, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark say “you have a commodity to sell—yourself—and you must approach your search campaign just as you would any other sales or marketing campaign… it’s that easy, yet that complex”.

So remember—a cover letter that isn’t specifically tailored to the job description is likely to be tossed in the “no” pile. Take the time to construct a meaningful, on target, hard-hitting letter that will grab the attention of the hiring authority. A cover letter that showcases you as the solution to the company’s challenges will win every time over a cover letter that simply presents your qualifications and experience.

Sarah Cronin Consulting collaborates with job seekers to ensure their next chosen career step is professionally presented and successfully obtained. In addition to resumes and cover letters, we also design LinkedIn profiles, corporate biographies, selection criteria and other career documentation that ensures your career prospers. Contact us if you’d like to discuss your needs further.

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