Winning an interview is much like winning a heart - in many ways you need the same arrow. Employers like to be romanced. Nothing gets an employer's attention like a personal and well thought out covering letter.
Just like a prospective date, you need to make the potential employer feel like you are only interested in them and no one else. Nobody, prospective boss or lover, wants to feel that they are receiving a generic covering letter that has been sent willy-nilly to 50 people.
You can use the same principles that have success in dating with an employer. An employer and a prospective date want to feel the same thing - to feel that you are serious, "exclusive" and genuinely interested in them, who they are, and what they do. 50 samey messages which are not personally addressed won't get you a date, and they won't get you an interview either.
Unless someone is desperate, a generic covering letter won't get you the result you want. We all know that we don't want to work for someone or go out with someone who is "desperate." High turnover in terms of business and relationships is a sign of a problem, and one that you probably want to avoid.
Make sure when you prepare your covering letter that you:
- Find evidence to show that you are well matched, ie, I am into Kayaking too. I am a really sporty person and think this is important part of life.
- Show that you have read about the company and the market they operate. i.e. I make sure my knowledge of the financial world is up to date by reading the Financial Times.
- Considered your own experience and how it fits into their needs, or I have the experience of customer service in a fast paced environment
- That you are serious about them and not just a "player" - you can show this by being very specific to the company. Always address to a person, "Dear Sir or Madam" is not going to be the first on the list if a competing applicant has spent the time researching the name of the recruiting manager. A quick look on the company website should do it.
Imagine how you feel receiving this on lotsoflove.com:
My name is Bob and I am 35 years old, interested in running and sports. I like going to the cinema and seeing my friends. Please email back if you would like to meet.
Compared it to this:
I felt I had to write to you as we seem to have a lot in common. I think we could get on as we seem to have a similar sense of humour. I work in a school as well, so I know what you mean by feeling "frazzled" at the end of the day.
I am sure that you get a lot of messages but thanks for reading mine.
Fred is much more likely to get a response because he:
- Addresses the recipient by name rather than just "hello"
- Has clearly read Sarah's description of what she is looking for
- He has used her own language, which makes him seem much more compatible
- He flatters her by acknowledging that she must hear from lots of interested people
- He says "thank you" for taking the time to read his message
- He signs off properly
Let's see how putting this into action works with the covering letter. Can Fred woo the recruiting manager of a hotel just as he can pique the interest of Sarah on lotsoflove.com.
Here's a made up job ad for a hotel administration assistant:
Job: administration assistant
Advert: admin assistant required for reputable hotel in beautiful Sussex grounds. Busy reception based role with lots of customer interaction. Must have excellent computer skills and be confident in handling a fast paced and dynamic environment. Please send your CV and covering letter to email@example.com
Here is Bob's effort:
I would like to apply for the role I saw advertised. I have attached my CV and Covering letter.
I am an excellent administration assistant and have extensive experience in general administration, telephone reception, and dealing with the public.
Compared to Fred's more personal covering letter:
Dear Mrs Mclaren,
I would like to apply for the role of Administration Assisant at High Park Hotel which I saw advertised in the Friday Ad yesterday. I have attached my CV and Covering letter for your consideration.
I would love the opportunity to work in the beautiful surroundings of the High Park Hotel. It is a beautiful establishment with an excellent reputation and I would be very pleased to contribute to the team.
I am an excellent administrator and I feel my skills would be useful to the existing team.
I am a driven individual who, having worked previously for St James's Hotel, is used to working efficiently in a fast paced environment. I enjoy the challenge and thrive in a busy environment.
As you can see from my CV, I have excellent Microsoft Office skills and also an excellent telephone manner from my years working at Telefon call centre.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my skills and experience and I hope that I might be a suitable match to the post.
Fred is much more likely to be successful in winning an interview. He has definitely done his homework and makes the employer feel special straight away by finding out the name of the recruiting manager. He also refers by name to the hotel so it definitely doesn't come across as he has printed 50 covering letters and spammed it off.
Fred also wins points for:
- Referring to something the employer feels is important to them - the "beautiful surroundings"
- Talks about his experience which directly responds to the employers wants
- Ticks all the boxes using his experience and skills to respond directly to the demands of the job
- Sounds genuinely like he really want to work at the place and not just like it's any old job
- Is very polite and thanks the recruiting manager for his time
As dates and jobs go, you can see that Fred will get his foot in the door every time before Bob.
Potential employers and potential lovers have similar needs - to feel special, to see that you have the right "skills set," and to believe that you are special too.
Go and romance the next employer!
Image: with thanks to Lusi of RGB Freestock