Do you write cover letters when you are applying for jobs? If you don’t, I think you should in order to improve your chances; unless of course the employer specifically asks you not to. However, even if you do write cover letters, I wonder if yours are effective as they could be.
When you make a decision to craft a cover letter, a logical place to begin is to know what the purpose of the cover letter is in the first place. Well it does a number of things when done properly; it introduces you to the employer, sets up your resume, and describes your motivation for the position. That’s all great of course, but there’s one other key thing that a cover letter should do in its design and that is to express your desire for an interview.
When I read cover letters composed by job applicants, a great deal of the time I find myself drawing a similarity between these letters and all those movies depicting a high school dance scene. Stay with me, it’s going to become crystal clear and you can learn perhaps from this analogy.
Go back in time with me and picture the scene at the high school dance. (If you never went to one, surely you can envision the scene if you’ve ever watched a movie where a dance occurred.) You’re on one side of the gymnasium standing there somewhat awkwardly with your best friend. Across the dance floor is the girl or guy you find dreamy and you’re trying to work up the nerve to walk on over and ask them to dance. You’re nervous, trying to compose the right words that just don’t seem to come, and the pressure is all because it means a lot to you and you don’t want to blow it.
You make sure you do everything in your power to make just the right impression. So you check your hair, your breath, dry your sweaty hands the best you can and ask your friend for their advice on what to say. Finally, you work up the nerve and ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Of course you quickly answer your own question with, “They might reject me and then what?!”
Now meanwhile on the other side of the room, the person you are all stressed out about meeting you; the one who looks so attractive and is just waiting to meet you is doing their best to send out the right signals and cues that they are approachable. Maybe it’s a smile or a wave.
Just as you decide it’s better to do something than nothing and are about to take your big first step in their direction, somebody pushes past you and walks right over and starts a conversation with your intended target. They make it look so easy and comfortable. Soon, they’re on the dance floor and the chance is gone. The worst part is you know the two of you would be perfect for each other.
Sound familiar? Or maybe you were the one back in high school that just picked out your target and walked on over realizing there was more to gain than to lose by asking someone to dance. You were the one the rest of the wallflowers said was so confident and self-assured. You were the one everybody else wanted to emulate but couldn’t due to a lack of confidence.
Okay so back to cover letters. Pull out one that you’ve recently put together and read it over. Did you actually ask for an interview in the cover letter or just hint and infer you’d like one? Surprisingly, many people don’t just come right out and request an interview. Like that awkward high school dance scene, many people are afraid of asking for an interview because they are intimidated and don’t want to appear aggressive and risk the chance the employer will say, “No.” However, the employer at their end is eagerly anticipating being approached by job applicants and is sending out all the right cues in the job postings as to what they’ll find attractive and who’d they’d like to meet.
Why not start your cover letter with an opening such as, “I am requesting an interview for the position of __________.”
Why you can even make it a stand-alone statement and begin a new paragraph just as I’ve done in this blog. I know this is my own strategy, and I also start my concluding paragraph in the cover letter repeating this request. My final paragraph usually begins, “As I stated earlier, I am requesting an interview at a time of your convenience….” So now I’ve told them right up front what I’m writing them about and it’s also the last thing they read which hopefully prompts a response.
A job interview is what you want isn’t it? Sure it is. So then take this advice and try it even if it seems bold. It’s assertive but not aggressive. Aggressive demands an interview, assertive simply states what it is you want; and believe me, employers tell me it’s what they want too.
You may wish you’d gone up to that person in the gym years ago and wondered to this day what might have been; but you can change how you approach employers here and now in 2016. Go on, give it a shot.