This is part four of a five-part blog series on tailoring your cover letter and resume to any position so you will get noticed. A fictional position is used throughout the series to help you apply these tips. This part is dedicated to tailoring your cover letter. Start the tailoring process right with part one of this blog series!
By Bock Szymkowicz, Career Development Specialist
Here’s a reminder of why we are doing this:
Why write a cover letter? To show that your personality and passion fit with the position and company
A company will receive many resumes that will use similar formats and mirror words in the job description. Yet when invited in for an interview, few of the applicants will actually possess the personality and passion along with the experience.
A resume isn’t a strong tool for communicating personality and passion. A cover letter is your chance to use words to express your enthusiasm. Hook the reviewer with your cover letter, and you’ll get an interview.
As opposed to the resume, which can be slightly more generic between companies, each cover letter needs to be specific to the company you are applying to.
Many employers receive generic cover letters that just rehash the resume and don’t even specifically address the person, or even company, they’re for. They’re not effective.
Below are techniques to show the company you’ve done research and are a good fit.
Cover Letter Tailoring Techniques
- Address to a Specific Person
Along with the company’s name and address, add the name of the person who is reading your resume. If it’s not in the job posting, look on the company’s website for the hiring manager or head of Human Resources. If you can’t find it there, call the company and ask who is hiring for that position.
- Mission Statement & Core Values
By searching a company’s website, you can find the company’s mission statement and potentially their core values. Reference these if you can in the cover letter.
- Refer to Position & Company Name
If the company and position are not mentioned at all in a cover letter, a recruiter can immediately tell it hasn’t been tailored. Leave room in both the first and last paragraph to mention one or both.
- Adjust Bullet Points
Make the three skills you are highlighting reflect what the job posting is requesting. Some people have a “long version” cover letter with five or more skills and choose the best three when tailoring.
Creating a draft of a cover letter with highlighted sections that you will change for each position. Here are some examples:
- “My name is Bock Szymkowicz, and I am extremely interested in working with [Company Name] as [Position You Are Applying For].”
- “I know I can bring my experience in [Skills Mentioned in Posting] to support [Company Name]’s mission of [Company Mission Statement].”
- “Like [Company Name], I strongly value [1-2 Company Core Values].”
- “Thank you for your consideration. I strongly hope to work with [Company Name].”
Volunteer Coordinator Example
Now back to our Volunteer Coordinator example, mentioned in the rest of this series let’s pretend that we researched the company’s core values and mission statements. We’re going to add this to the concise job description we create in the second blog. Below is that information, with underlined main points we need to consider when writing the cover letter.
Company: Not Byte Back
Position Title: Volunteer Coordinator
Company Mission Statement: Improve the quality of life of local DC families
Company Core Values: Organization, diversity, volunteerism, constant learning
Skills, Techniques & Tools: Microsoft Office, Microsoft Work, Microsoft Excel, databases, friendly phone demeanor, detail-oriented, organized, driver’s license
Action Verbs: Collect, process, ensure, assist, schedule, collaborate, follow up, manage
Categorize: Based off the action verbs, one can see a strong focus on:
- Administrative skills, particularly around volunteer management (collect, process, ensure, schedule)
- A secondary focus on communication, particularly with volunteers and other staff (collaborate, assist, follow up)
Specific Requests: Send three documents (resume, cover letter-include salary range!, and references) to stated e-mail address with subject title “Volunteer Coordinator.”
Here are some sentences from my Mad Libs example that are now modified for this current position.
- I know I can bring my experience in Microsoft Office Suite and managing databases to support Not Byte Back’s mission of improving the quality of local DC families
- Like Not Byte Back, I strongly value diversity and volunteerism
Next, we would review the skills, techniques, tools, and action verbs to determine what skills we will highlight in the cover letter. Since we categorized the action verbs, we can determine that we want to put a focus on – administrative skills and communication skills.
While using a Mad Libs approach is a great starting point, the more you can modify your cover letter for the position and company, the better. If you were applying for Safeway, you could add a sentence mentioning how you’ve been a long time shopper for years. For the example volunteer position, you could speak to your passion of working with volunteers. Remember, you really need to show your passion for the position and company in this letter.
Now that the resume and cover letter are covered, we’ll review how to follow job posting instructions for a specific position. Stay tuned for our last post in the series!