I have seen countless cover letters over the past years and most of them were mediocre or even had a negative impact on how I looked at the applicant. Because of this, and the fact that I receive questions about how to write a cover letter almost daily, I want to give you some insights on how you can write a powerful cover letter that sells you.
Watch this short video that explains the details.
I believe every cover letter has to answer three questions, WHAT, HOW and WHY. Most of the people always answer the WHAT but not the WHY and HOW.
The what basically summarizes your experience, tells the reader what you have done in the past, what you can do in the future, what your talents and skills are and what your CV looks like. This is certainly important to know for the reader but much less important than the WHY and HOW. You already answer the WHAT question in your CV.
This question is already much more important than the WHAT question. It explains how you helped your past organization, how you can help in the future and how you are going to do this. It basically gives more understanding and uniqueness to your WHAT so people can understand it better. It also provides more meaning to the reader or listener because it’s about them, not about you.
I believe this is the most important part of your messaging if you and the reader connect on some level. Almost nobody uses it, mainly because either they don’t understand it or are uncomfortable about it. The WHY talks about your beliefs. Why you do what you do, why you do how you do it and why the company should hire you out of 100s of other applicants. It is also the most difficult question to answer for most people. Because of this, I want to share with you the video below from Simon Sinek about the WHY, HOW and WHAT.
He talks about the communication of corporations but I believe you easily can and should adjust this to you as a person.
TIP: If you struggle with defining your WHY, have a look at your cover letter as it is right now. Then write down questions, starting with a why from the view of the recruiter or HR.
Example: Why do you work in business development? Why do you want to work for a startup? Why do you want to work for the company you are applying to?
In my coaching through the “Job Search Revolution Framework”, I help my clients connect with peers and hiring managers in their industry and teach them how to write powerful messages so they can establish a meaningful relationship with them.
Purpose of the Cover Letter
Through the cover letter, you are able to stand out of the crowd. It’s probably the only document in your application portfolio that can make you stand out, except for the Executive Summary on your CV. When you look at the CV and compare it with 10 other applicants for the same position, your experience might be very similar to all the others. Sometimes you can be #1, sometimes #10, no matter how good you think you match the job description. This mainly depends on how good the other applicants that apply have tailored their CV to the position and how honest the job description has been written. Your influence in very small.
However, if you can write a powerful cover letter and use this messaging in your email, LinkedIn messages and everywhere else you communicate, you can stand out. You can stand out through your WHY and HOW but not through your WHAT.
To Whom it May Concern
For who are you writing the cover letter? Or in general, who are you messaging to? Think about this very hard before you send out any communication. I have seen this mistake over and over again in corporate communications and individual communications. Always do the research before you message to anybody and know enough about them to tailor your message to them.
If you send your message to HR for a job opening and you have no idea who the hiring manager is, tailor the message to the job. Explain why you are the best fit and why you would like to work for that company. Mention parts of the job description in your message and explain how you can help the organization.
If you know who the hiring manager is and you send the message to him or her, tailor it to his or her personality. Do some research on LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, etc. and find out as much as you can about the goals, vision, values, personality, interests, experience, ideas and opinion of this person. Then write the message about them, not about you.
Applying it to everywhere
I already quickly mentioned this before but I think it’s so important, I am ok with repeating myself here. Whenever you write a message, no matter to whom, make it about them. Express your WHY and HOW along with your WHAT. Most of the time, especially if you try to approach hiring managers or other decision makers, you only have one chance to get their attention.
Watch this video that I put together to get a better idea of the Why-How-What Technique.
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