Lauren Francis, Founder and President, Laura Back, Director of Marketing and Events, and Kelsey Trif, Talent Acquisition Coordinator, of Mulberry Talent Partners discussed job search basics including cover letters, check-ins, and thank you notes in the latest Career Conversation webinar. Check out the highlights of their conversation below.
Writing Effective Cover Letters
You may wonder, are hiring managers and recruiters still reading cover letters? The answer is a resounding yes.
“Particularly when they ask for a cover letter to be submitted with the resume, it’s important to pay attention to what the submission requirements are,” said Lauren. “I do feel that the cover letter makes a big difference in whether or not you’ll be selected in the interview process.”
Before diving into cover letter best practices, Laura identified the most common cover letter missteps.
- Using a generic cover letter template without any customization. It shows the hiring manager that you aren’t giving much thought to the individual application.
- Writing the wrong information such as the wrong organization, position title, or hiring manager name. This is an easy mistake to make when applying for multiple positions.
- Overstating the facts or repeating your resume. Your cover letter is an opportunity to expand on your resume and show a more in-depth perspective into your experience, qualifications, and your overall fit for their organization.
- Bringing up your salary or references. Salary discussions will come up later and references in the interview processes will be requested when necessary.
The 3-Point Method to Writing Cover Letters
Mulberry Talent Partners recommends the same three-step method to all job seekers looking to write a compelling and effective cover letter.
- Captivate the reader in your opening paragraph
- Align your experience, skills, past projects, or accomplishments with the role you are applying for
- Demonstrate your passion for joining their organization
Look at the cover letter as an opportunity to prepare for an interview. Do your research about the company, think about how you’d fit into the role, and take notes.
“A cover letter is a place where you can fill in some gaps,” said Laura. “Something about your resume got them interested, now give them the ‘why’ you’re going to fit into that role.”
The cover letter is a great opportunity to connect the dots between your past experience and your career aspirations and goals.
Cover Letter Formatting
Almost as important as the content of your cover letter, is its appearance. Cover letters should be presented in a professional, organized manner.
Some basic formatting rules:
- Use the same fonts, font sizes, and headers across your resume and cover letter so that it is cohesive and aesthetically pleasing. Use professional, easy-to-read fonts and avoid using font sizes that are too large or too small.
- Follow a standard business letter format that includes the date, company, and contact
- Stick to one page with standard margins
- Save the document with your name and “cover letter” spelled out in the file name such as “pdf.”
Cover Letter Organization
Mulberry Talent Partners recommends starting every cover letter with a greeting. Avoid using generic terms like “To Whom it May Concern,” and address the hiring manager or recruiter by their name. If the name of the individual is not available, use “Dear Hiring Manager”.
After your greeting, you’ll move into your introduction. Your introduction will set the tone of the cover letter and should align with the culture of the organization you are applying.
“If you’re applying to a creative agency your cover letter will look different than it would if you were applying to a law or finance firm,” added Laura.
Your introduction should start with a hook or opening statement and include the name of the position you are applying for. It’s also a great opportunity to name drop if you’ve previously connected with a member of their team about the position.
If you haven’t interacted with any of their team personally or attended an event from their company, consider referencing an article you read about the company or another form of making a connection.
The introduction is also a great place to incorporate keywords. This can especially be important if your resume goes into an applicant tracking system. Keywords may include specific software names, skills, and job titles.
Lauren and Laura recommend that you find inspiration in reading examples of cover letters online to see which ones match your voice. Pick and choose elements from what you find to craft a cover letter that fits you.
Once you’ve established a clear introduction, it’s time to move into the meat of your cover letter. The body of the cover letter should be no more than 2-3 paragraphs and should describe your accomplishments as they relate to the role you are applying for while weaving in your relevant soft skills like the ability to multi-task or work independently. Use specific work examples or accomplishments (numbers or facts are great) that your resume might not have shown.
Find your ‘why’ for why you’d like to join their organization and what makes you excited about joining the company. Continue to utilize keywords pulled from the job description to help connect the dots between your skills and capabilities and what they are seeking in an application. If this role is a career shift for you, use this space to focus on your transferable skills.
The final step of the cover letter is the conclusion. Share your desire to discuss your professional experiences and the position, thank the organization or hiring manager for their time and let them know you look forward to connecting with them soon.
Post-Interview Etiquette: Check-Ins and Thank You Notes
Hopefully, once you’ve submitted a well-crafted resume and cover letter, you’ll be invited for an interview. Once the interview is over, the application process hasn’t ended! It’s important to think about your after-interview etiquette including check-ins with the recruiter and thank you notes.
At the end of your interview, ask about timing. Inquire about their hiring process and how long they anticipate it to take for them to move on to the next steps for the role.
“The timing that is declared isn’t always how it works out,” said Lauren. “If the hiring manager says ‘next Wednesday,’ wait a few days to inquire further. Many times you won’t necessarily hear a response from your inquiry. Wait a few more days before following up again. When you do reach out, it’s important not to show irritation or concerns about not hearing back.”
If you are working with a staffing agency like Mulberry Talent Partners, utilize your recruiter to help get in contact with the company. Be sure to touch base with them after every interview you have. Your staffing agency recruiter is your best advocate. It’s also important to never demand a response from your interviewer. Interviewees should simply express their gratitude for the opportunity and reiterate that they look forward to the next steps or follow-up communication.
Another incredibly important element of the hiring process is sending thank-you notes. Laura and Lauren’s advice includes:
- Send your notes same day if possible and send an individual email to each interviewer. If same day is not possible, be sure to send it within 24 hours.
- If you don’t have their email addresses, use a service like hunter.io or ask your recruiter for their contact information.
- Thank your interviewer for their time
- Personalize the note by recalling a specific detail or two from the interview itself, whether about the role or their organization
- Use this opportunity to expand upon an answer or highlight something you didn’t have an opportunity to in the interview
- Express your continued interest in the role