The Key to the Cover Letter

When looking for a job due to unemployment, current job dissatisfaction or finding openings at a dream company, drafting a separate cover letter for each prospective position may seem daunting and time consuming. Many applicants may keep stock cover letters depending on company or job industry, but they are doing themselves a disservice by not crafting a fresh cover letter each time, no matter how long it may take. The importance of doing so lies in the purpose of the cover letter.

The typical first step in applying to a position, either through a recruiter or directly, is submitting your resume and a cover letter. Unlike the resume, the cover letter is meant to speak directly to the hiring manager and or HR professional as to why you want the position, what you will bring to the position and company, and your overall motivations and experience as an employee and person.

It also indirectly serves as a writing sample, which is an important factor to keep in mind.

Your qualifications, skills and most important experience are included in your resume, so the cover letter is your opportunity to showcase additional attributes about yourself that the hiring manager wouldn’t otherwise know. They are looking to get a deeper glimpse into the person behind the employee that would be in their office. Are you a dedicated volunteer for a specific cause or charity? Do you ski in the winters or surf in the summer? Are you a spin instructor or have an interesting hobby after hours? These details will all contribute to the picture you are painting of yourself.

While those details will certainly help craft a conversation during the phone and or in-person interviews, and will help HR professionals identify with you as a person, the central piece of the letter should focus on your motivation and desire to do the specific job applied for at this specific company. The job title and name of the company should be included as well as specific aspects of the job description and why you would be the best person they could hire.

The key to all of these details is that they be portrayed in a genuine and heartfelt manner and that you match everything back to the position and company. This will make the hiring manager feel like you greatly desire their particular position, not just a new position.

Every company wants to make careful hiring decisions and hire employees that really want to work on behalf of their mission and endeavors. Eloquently portraying that you do, and will do so effectively, will help them see you as their next great hire during the hiring process.

The Phone Interview

After applying to multiple positions and attending networking events, your efforts are finally paying off: you’ve been asked for a phone interview! While this is an exciting first step in the hiring process, it can also be fraught with risks.

Don’t fall into the following traps:

Too Casual

This means in both speech and demeanor. Since you are on the phone likely in a comforting environment to you, it is easy to slip into old habits of casual language as if you were speaking with an old friend or even a longtime coworker. Just because you are not being evaluated in person doesn’t mean the interviewer isn’t picking up on your social cues. Perhaps they are picking up even more so since they only have your voice and language on which to base an opinion.

Make sure you dress professionally as it subconsciously will make you speak and present yourself in a more commanding way. If you feel like you are dressed for a professional environment, you will speak as if you were in one!

Have good posture and use facial expressions as if the interviewer was sitting across from you. It may feel funny at first, but the inflections in your voice will be come through the phone and will make you seem more engaging.

Not Using Your Resources

Since you are not in person, you can have your research and resume laid out in front of you for reference. Don’t forget to glance at your resume to jog your memory of work experiences and sills you can use in conversation. If you have research on the company printed out, bring company news, historical company facts, etc., into the conversation so the interviewer gets the feeling that you are interested in their job, not just any job.

Unprofessional Environment

If you are taking the phone interview at home and have noisy pets, make accommodations for them before the phone rings. Perhaps bring a dog to another floor of the house or make sure the cat has enough food and water prepared.

Don’t have the tv on in the background and limit the possibility of background noise as much as you can. For example, don’t sit next to an outside window in case the neighbor’s landscaper decides to show up.

If you are taking the phone interview at your current office and have ducked into a conference room, make sure it is either formally reserved or the door is shut/ locked so you don’t have fellow employees entering the room. That would not only be uncomfortable for you but for them, as well!

No Follow Up

Even though the prospective company did not host you in person, the interviewer still devoted time out of their day to get to know you, your experience and skills, and decide if you could be a good fit for them. Sending a thank you message is important as it recognizes this time investment and their consideration of you for their company.

If you devote ample preparation time and avoid these pitfalls, you will likely see yourself preparing for the next step in the hiring process: the in person interview!