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How To Make A Cover Letter Stand Out
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Does this sound familiar?
You search diligently online for jobs opportunities. You find one that you really like. You click through and fill out what in many cases is a very lengthy online application. You attach a copy of you resume and normally you're asked. "Would you like to attach a cover letter?" You select yes and upload what is probably a fairly stock cover letter because you're churning through as many job applications as you can.
Where Does All That Data Go?
So you probably want to know how to make a cover letter stand out. Your data along with all the others gets racked and stacked based on qualifications and initial screening. Some of this is automated, some of this of course is reviewed by real life Human Resources/Recruiting folks. The bottom line, you need to stand out. Standing out does not mean decorating your resume and cover letter with rainbows and unicorn pictures. Standing out means paying attention to a few key areas in the job description and framing your cover letter towards them.
How To Make A Cover Letter Stand Out... Pay Attention!
One of the things I love about operating an online business is that it's taught me so many things that apply in the offline world. One of those things is something called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short. The basic idea is that you want to create pieces of content around topics people are actually searching for. If you match up your content with what people want... BOOM! Your content gets seen.
The same concept applies with cover letters and job applications. So where do you look for the magic words and phrases? The job description and requirements.
Here's a sample portion of a job listing that I just pulled off the web focusing in on the job requirements.
Prefer high school diploma or GED and previous customer service skills/ experience. Required basic computer skills (i.e typing and navigating between programs/screens to enter data and process information). Ability to use logic and reasoning to analyze information and evaluate results to choose the best solution and solve problems. Flexibility in schedule availability to meet company needs. All New Hires must be available to work on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Must be dependable and punctual in attendance.
Go The Extra Mile
So let's say this customer service position is one you really want. You pull up your stock cover letter. Remember, you're not going to rewrite the entire cover letter! You are going to tweak it to match this job more closely.
The first keyword or phrase mentioned in our example above is education and prior experience. This is gold. In your cover letter you will mention your specific education accomplishments and experience. What you accomplish by doing this is you are likely answering phone screen or in person interview questions before they are asked.
I completed my Associates Degree in Health Care Management while working as a customer service representative for XXX Company. I have two years of inbound call center experience.
The next area our job example goes into is about scheduling and flexibility. Look at the keywords, "flexibility" and "punctual" Most people assume that just by applying for the job they are stating they can work all shifts. That's not how it works. Schedules are a major sticking point for employers and job seekers. The best play is to acknowledge right up front that you can work all the shifts described in the posting. Use their keywords!
I am flexible and available for all shifts including weekends.
What about that punctual attendance point? Can you address that? Absolutely. How many days of work did you miss during your last job? Only one? Put that in your cover letter! It's really OK to brag here. If an employer stresses it in their posting, you have every right to stress it in your cover letter.
How To Make A Cover Letter Stand Out... Make It Personal
When asking yourself how to make a cover letter stand out the best way is to make it personal. If you take the time to address the needs that the employer has stressed are important, you will stand out in the crowd. Consider your resume and especially your cover letter as a digital version of a handshake and first impression.
At first this will seem like it takes a lot of time to customize. It really doesn't once you get the hang of it. The idea is to pick the lowest hanging fruit from the job description, the areas that seem the most important to the employer, and to go after some of those keywords and phrases. If you do, chances are your phone will be ringing a lot faster for your next interview.
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