Searching for a job can be overwhelming, and it is often hard to know where to start. There are many things you need to do to create a resume and search for a job, but you can break down the process into manageable steps.
Our “Steps of a Job Search” series highlights these steps. As we go through, follow along with Patricia and Nate (our fictitious examples) to see how it works.
What is a cover letter?
Many employers ask for a cover letter (sometimes called a letter of interest) and resume from job applicants. Cover letters highlight your applicable experience and demonstrate your interest and knowledge about the position. Cover letters are an excellent opportunity to showcase your qualifications and stand out from other applicants.
Telecom Toolbox contributor Kristen Jacoway-Beasley covered the art of creating a cover letter in previous blogs:
Cover letter tips:
- Use the same format for your cover letter that you used for your resume so the appearance is consistent.
- Create a template with the items that remain consistent across letters, such as your name, contact information, closing and signature line.
- Ask people to proofread your cover letter. Typos and poor grammar can hurt your chances of getting an interview.
- Save your cover letter as a PDF with a professional title such as “[Your Name] cover letter”
- When you have created your application materials, save the job posting (copy the text into a document, print, or save a screen shot of the post) so you can refer to it if you get an interview.
Similar to how they screen resumes, some employers use applicant tracking software to screen cover letters for “keywords”. Review the Telecom Toolbox blog post Understanding Applicant Tracking Software for more information. It’s a good idea to review the job post to identify words that may be tracked, and then work these words into your cover letter.
Cover Letter Example: Patricia
Patricia’s cover letter: bakery
Patricia reviews some of her old cover letters to see if she can cut and paste any content. She has a copy of the letter she used when she applied to work in a bakery 10 years ago. The opening paragraph explains why she wants to work in a bakery. She can edit this paragraph for her new cover letter, which will save her some time.
Patricia reviews the notes she made when researching the bakery online and remembers they do not have much of a social media presence. She decides to mention her skills and interest in building an online presence for the bakery in her cover letter. Finally, she knows bakeries traditionally have a high staff turnover rate so she highlights the fact that she worked at the same bakery for 10 years.
Patricia’s cover letter: teacher’s aide
For her cover letter for the teacher’s aide position, Patricia highlights her experience working in several schools, and her experience working with students with disabilities. She also makes sure to mention the outstanding employee award she got when she worked at a different school. Finally, she adds keywords to her letter of interest because she is confident the school district uses applicant-tracking software to screen resumes and cover letters.
Cover Letter Example: Nate
Nate thinks about his cover letter for a job at the convention center job. He decides he is most interested in working on the event set-up crew at the convention center. He doesn’t have any experience working on events, so he thinks about how the experiences he does have would show that he would be a good fit for this job.
He decides that he will use his job at McDonalds to show that he is good at following directions and working as part of a team in a fast-paced environment. To show that he is also good at staying organized, can work independently, and has good customer services skills, he will talk about his lawn-mowing business. Finally, he decides to mention his babysitting experiences as a way to highlight his dependability and responsibility.
Nate follows the convention center on social media so he knows they are focusing on hosting and promoting concerts. He does not have any experience working in a commercial venue, but he can talk about how much he enjoys attending larger concerts. He starts his letter with “I understand what fellow music enthusiasts look for in a concert and I would love the opportunity to provide an excellent experience for concert-goers.”
Nate knows that the local job service office is screening applications for the convention center positions using applicant tracking software. He reviews the job post and notes the words they use in the ad such as “fast-paced”, “responsible”, “organized”, and “high-energy.” Nate includes all these words in his cover letter to maximize the potential number of software hits.
Constructing a good cover letter can take time, but the more cover letters you write, the more content you can reuse or modify. Cover letters, like most things, get easier to write with practice.
Stay tuned for our next blog post, References, which details another step in creating application materials.
All pictures from www.HealthyCommunityLiving.com.