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Ah the art of getting a job – or should I say the grueling process of getting a job. It really is some of the hardest “work” you’ll ever do. You scour job boards and job fairs, put your name out there, blast out resumes, carefully articulate cover letters, showcase your articulate and professional presence as you interview with companies left and right – all for a paycheck and (hopefully) a career that won’t feel too much like “work”.
So let’s lay out a scenario – you’re young, recently out of school, and looking for work. You’ve spent a lot of time on your resume – doing a good job of highlighting our work experience as well as relevant experiences and coursework from college. The resume is a knock out – but what about your cover letter?
Step One: Companies only care about what you can do for them
One common mistake people make is focusing too heavily on themselves. I know, getting a job may seem like it’s all about selling yourself – but really, you’re selling what you can do for the company – what you can add to the bottom line, and why you would do it better than anyone else. A company wants to know what your past experience means for them – this requires a bit of research on your part. If you’re applying for a PR job, talk about what you did at your corporate internship and how that learning experience will benefit a specific job requirement.
Step Two: Be one in a million
You have to remember that companies are seeing TONS of resumes – talking about yourself in an extremely professional way is great, but everyone else is doing that too – you want to, no, you HAVE TO stand out. You have to think about the specific qualities that make you a knock-out; you need to carry yourself as someone any company would be CRAZY to pass up.
Step Three: It’s OK to be personal – and humor sells
My approach with the cover letter is a little different – Instead of focusing so much on the professionalism that we’re taught in school – I was much more personal – I always threw in a joke about myself, or some random hobby (like that I was an Expert at Rock Band) – something totally off the cuff. You would be surprised at how many people would mention that random “fact” during an interview. It’s little (sometimes ridiculous) things that really stick with people. The people reading your cover letter are humans too – they go out to bars for happy hour, they love sports, they dominate in Wii Bowling – if you can make that “personal” connection with them – show a little bit of the human side of yourself – it can really go a long way.
Step 4: Keep it simple (stupid)
We hear this phrase all the time but it rings true. Keep your cover letter short and sweet – you’re not writing your Thesis here – this needs to be a page or less about you and what benefits you would add to the company’s bottom line. Be specific and stick to the point. The minute you start adding in “fluff” is exactly when the HR rep will throw your resume in the trash.
Step 5: Invest time
Writing an effective cover letter takes time – you can try to template it out but a company will see right through it if it looks like a “standard” cover letter that you copied in a new company name just to repurpose. You have to be specific to the job you are applying for – which means research is a must. Head to a coffee shop, put on your headphones, unplug from the Internet – and work on CRAFTING the perfect cover letter without distractions.
Getting your foot in the door is the hardest part – in times like these, it’s those who take things seriously, but aren’t afraid to be themselves, who really stand out from the crowd.