How To Give Your Cover Letter a Face Lift

No longer is the cover letter about driving attention to something else. Now it is about creating engagement with someone else.

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The cover letter is dead; long live the cover letter.

It's 2018, and the cover letter's status is complicated to say the least-a Google search for "do you need a cover letter" returns nearly a billion results. Part of the reason for the confusion is that, unlike the resume, the cover letter has not evolved with the digital times. It has not, for instance, become a required part of online application templates. Nor is it easily combed through by AI-enabled predicative analytics to judge fit for a position. "The cover letter got deemphasized for sure," says Christian Moritz, president of Klaxos, which provides digital optimization services on both the offering and seeking side of job searches. "Almost like search results, it got pushed to the bottom, after a great resume and online profile. That doesn't mean it isn't important, it just means that other things took precedence."

The cover letter no longer is about driving attention to something else.

Put another way, the cover letter's purpose has changed. Much like advertising itself, no longer is it about driving attention to something else such as a resume. Now it is about creating engagement with someone else. The goal isn't to get a recruiter to read your resume. The goal is to get a recruiter to contact you or refer you to a hiring manager. In fact, experts suggest that it is best not to think of the cover letter as a letter at all. Instead, think of it as direct email marketing. The problem with that, however, is that most people don't know how to sell themselves. "The number-one thing we hear from clients is that they don't know how to write about themselves and they want us to tell their story for them," says Moritz.

Indeed, according to an Inc. magazine article headlined "How to Write a Cover Letter in 2018," one of the biggest trends is storytelling, or creating a narrative that connects you to the company and position. Does the company's purpose match your values and beliefs, for instance? Is its culture similar to a previous job in which you excelled? What are your skills and key accomplishments and how do they relate to the job you are applying for? If you're applying cold or unsolicited, the subject line is the single most important line of your candidacy. "It has to really get people excited about digging deeper," Moritz says.

Another tip for writing cover letters is to borrow from the social networks and set a character limit. There's nothing worse than a lengthy email introduction, after all. Include an executive summary of your key skills and accomplishments, what you can bring to the job, and why you are a fit with the company, and post it in a status update. If it is too long, revise until it isn't.

Similar to a resume, if you are uploading a cover letter into an online template, optimize it by using keywords and language pulled from the job description itself. But it is better to identify a recipient inside the organization who can give you a referral. "Part of doing a job search is networking with executives and recruiters," says Moritz. Ultimately, that is the very purpose of a cover letter as well.

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