You've analyzed the job posting and noted the key points. The applicant profile seems to fit you to a T, and you’ve highlighted your strengths!
You’re ready to write a cover letter that is going to win the recruiter over.
This isn’t everyone's favorite part of the application! However, you need to stick to it, as a good cover letter allows you to stand out from the applicants who have overlooked its importance. We’ll help you master a few basic principles and avoid a number of classic mistakes.
Why Send a Cover Letter?
In the vast majority of cases, your résumé will have to be accompanied by an email or a cover letter. Even if a cover letter isn't required, a well-written one will give you a significant advantage.
If your résumé holds the recruiter's attention, they may like what they see, look closer at your application and decide whether or not to offer you an interview. It would be a shame if they passed you over because your letter undermined the impression made by your résumé!
You’ll have to put your heart and soul into drafting and writing this letter. 😊 As you’re selling yourself to the recruiter, it's important to highlight your key assets and convince them that you could be the right person!
What's Going On in an Employer/Recruiter's Head?
An employer is looking for skills, experience, and above all a person who is going to fit easily into their team, work effectively with their customers, cooperate well with their line manager and contribute to the company’s development. The recruiter's challenge is to understand the person behind the résumé. Poor recruitment wastes time and money, and a poor placement can also affect the team on a daily basis.
A recruiter will try to save time when reading your cover letter. They’ll look at all your strengths, in both your résumé and letter, and detect the specific points that indicate you’ll be successful in the job. Likewise, the recruiter will read between the lines about what you don't say! They're looking to be convinced and won over.
Recruitment works like a funnel. For every 100 résumés received, the recruiter will:
keep approximately 50 based on first impressions.
organize a phone interview with around 20 applicants.
interview about 10 applicants in person.
If you want to be the one who gets hired, you need to get through all the levels of selection. So, take this stage of writing your cover letter very seriously.
Tailor Your Cover Letter to the Job
For each situation you face, you’ll need to adopt a different strategy suited to each context.
Different Job Contexts You May Encounter:
Replying to a specific job posting directly to the employer, CEO or future line manager
Answering a job posting via a recruiter (HR department or outside consultant)
Applying spontaneously, without any contact within the company
Applying spontaneously using a mutual contact who has recommended you
Submitting an application following an initial contact at a job event or a discussion on LinkedIn
Whatever the case, the recruiter needs to be convinced of your worth! Be careful – if you undervalue yourself, it's going to be difficult convincing the recruiter. Have confidence in yourself! 😊
Beyond the objectives and qualifications included in the résumé (your training, expertise and achievements, etc.), you must capture their attention and make them want to meet you.
You’re Replying to a Job Advertisement
The recruiter has posted a job advertisement that has caught your attention. You found it on LinkedIn, another job board, social media or on the company’s jobs page. Maybe someone you know sent it to you.
A job advertisement will convey the maximum amount of information regarding the company, the job, the desired applicant profile and how to apply in a minimum amount of space. The recruiter's aim is to capture the attention of the right candidates and the ideal future employee.
That’s right, companies can dream too!
Hence the importance of reading the advertisement carefully, noting the keywords and identifying the profile the recruiter is looking for, as shown in the previous part of this course.
In this advertisement, the employer casts a wide net hoping to reach a lot of potential candidates with the required qualities. The successful candidate will show a genuine interest in the company, share the same values (ideally) and have firsthand experience.
What’s going to make the difference?
In your cover letter, you’re going to highlight your interest in the company, your understanding of the position and what will make you a successful employee.
The recruiter must be able to identify that you are a motivated applicant with a career plan and skills tailored to their needs. They must be satisfied that you will be able to fit in and develop effectively in the position and within the company.
It’s up to you to show this in your cover letter!
Submitting a Spontaneous Application
A spontaneous application is an offer to collaborate with a company that hasn't expressed a specific hiring need. The goal of a spontaneous application is to help the recruiter see how your skill set would be useful to the company’s development and contribute effectively to its projects or to certain activities. You want to generate added value that exceeds the salary they will pay you!
Don't assume you're alone in sending in your spontaneous application. Certain large companies, like BP, HSBC or Google, struggle to deal with the amount of spontaneous applications they receive every year! Stand out from the crowd and target less well-known companies.
Even if they don’t have any openings right away, employers like to build up a talent pool by putting aside the interesting applications they receive. This way, they’ll be able to get back to you if and when the situation changes in order to cover their needs. This is especially true if you have rare and sought-after qualities.
Applying spontaneously can be very effective when you:
are super interested in a company, and the strength of your conviction could move mountains! An employer cannot remain indifferent and miss out on such dynamic energy.
have a contact in this company and you know there are openings that have not yet been publicized on the job market!
have explored the company’s jobs site or their job boards, you’ve analyzed the positions open for recruitment and you’re convinced there could be a place for you there!
How can I be convincing?
If you find a company you’re interested in, figure out what they're looking for and write an interesting message that meets their needs. You must adapt your way of communicating to show you’re speaking the other person’s language!
Here's an example using a familiar situation of meeting new people.
Having just arrived at a party, you approach a charming person and talk about yourself. "Hello. Do we know each other? Let me introduce myself. I love this party. Everything’s wonderful, and it’s just the sort of music I like. I enjoy getting up early and going for a run. It’s good for your health and gives you energy all day long. The last series I watched was really cool. By the second episode, I’d already guessed that…" And there it is – game over! The person you’ve been talking to gets bored and moves away, a bit taken aback by so much self-centeredness and so little interest in the other person!
You arrive at the party and observe the people around you. After a while, you notice that another partygoer seems to like the music the host is playing, so you approach them and start by talking about the singer's hits and other music. You’re getting along well, you listen to the other person, adapt your conversation and they eventually introduce you to their friends.
Now let’s get back to your role in all of this. Would the approach in situation 1 above be the best with prospective employers, or situation 2? My bet is on situation 2.
If you want to stand out, show the company that you are interested, that you know what they represent, where they are going and what value you can add.
Your cover letter should emphasize your knowledge of the company, what’s happening in it and your own analysis of developments in its economic sector.
Highlight the benefits the company would gain by having you on board!
Applying Following an Initial Contact
If you've had an initial contact and caught the recruiter's attention, you've made an important first step!
There are several possibilities:
One of your contacts has told you about a current opening in a team and has given you the email address of the manager or recruiter.
You are applying following an initial meeting at a networking event. In this case, you’ve picked up a business card or the contact details of the person to apply to and you may have even already had the first interview.
You've had direct contact with a recruiter through your LinkedIn profile and have been asked to send your résumé and cover letter to formalize your application.
Make the most of this initial contact:
Don’t lose the business card and contact details. Include a number of details to enrich and support your application:
Your knowledge of the company, the job and the desired profile will be more complete and more detailed.
Use details like the name of the person you saw/who informed you, the date you met and where or the name of the event.
Mention the interview or interaction you already had, and go into greater detail about your most relevant experience and skills.
Let’s look at how to broaden your thinking and avoid certain classic mistakes!
10 Simple but Important Tips:
A cover letter should be no longer than a single page. Otherwise, the recruiter won’t read it.
Use simple, short, easy-to-understand sentences that make use of action verbs!
Avoid words that cast doubt, such as “I think…/I believe…/Perhaps…”
Avoid negative turns of phrase, such as “I won’t be able to…/I’ve never done…” What interests a recruiter is what you do know and what you can do!
Reuse the recruiter’s own words—you’ll both be speaking the same language.
Devote time to your application. To begin, you’ll need at least an hour to write a cover letter. You can then use this well-crafted letter as a base to create customized cover letters for other positions.
Your letter should not simply restate your résumé. Select key points corresponding to the stated need(s).
Proofread and then proofread again! Do you have a friend who’s a stickler for grammar? Ask them to read it over too!
Double-check important details like the company name, details, and the contact name (if you have one) before sending the letter.
When sending a résumé by email, only around 10 lines of text is required. This is becoming more common when you apply via LinkedIn or a job board as well. Sometimes, just forwarding the profile is enough!
Writing a cover email requires an ability to summarize. You need to get straight to the point —no “padding”!
You’ll need to work on your tagline – the first words the recruiter is going to read. Often, you’ll start by indicating your greatest strength! In other words: play your trump cards right away.
“Having five years of successful experience in your business sector…”
“After contributing to developing the online sales platform for…”
“Having recently qualified from a training course with OpenClassrooms…”
Anticipate and briefly answer the questions the recruiter may be asking themselves about you! For example, if you are at a more junior level, reassure them by emphasizing your ability to learn and adapt.
Sum up in a few lines the key points from your résumé—the ones that prove you match the recruiter’s needs. Make them want to look at the details of your résumé and, better still, meet you in person!
You should end your letter by asking to meet them. Use phrasing like “Looking forward to meeting you soon.”
A Little Extra Creativity
If you are applying in a creative or artistic field, it can be worthwhile to show a bit of originality and personalize your cover letter, demonstrating a good understanding of the company’s brand! Similarly, a developer may code their cover letter and integrate it into a website or an animation.
Points of Conviction
Do you understand the company’s needs? Do you align with its culture and values? Are you convinced you have the skills the recruiter is looking for?
If all this is clear to you and the words come out all on their own, then go right ahead! Have confidence in yourself and say what you need to say. Nothing is better than spontaneity if you are clear in your convictions and know what you're talking about!
Describe your skills, achievements, your understanding of their problems and be proactive by coming up with suggestions. You’re already starting to collaborate and work with them – you’re picturing yourself in the job!
A touch of levity can be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stodgy cover letter—but know your audience! More traditional fields like law and finance have more formal cultures, and keeping things strictly professional is the best bet there.
Video résumés are becoming more and more popular, but it’s important to make them effective! Creating a video demonstrates your skills, highlights your communication abilities, summarizes problems and gets your point across clearly and efficiently. This is especially true if you want to work in public relations, video or digital marketing.
A good cover letter must be effective, persuasive and reassuring to the recruiter! It’ll give them proof of everything relevant to your application, the interest you have in the company and your understanding of the company’s needs.