10 ways to hack a job application: the cover letter edition
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The cover letter and letter of intent are a critical measurement used by employers to assess your writing skills, but more importantly, your creative potential and sense of personality. So use this guide to innovate your cover letter and take advantage of the summer job application season which occurs in January and February.
1. Follow the instructions listed on the company’s website
When do strictly follow instructions, not only do you appear favourable to the person who has concocted the system, but you’re also showing that you are capable of listening and carrying out plans based on information you have received.
2. Position yourself as the ideal candidate
To help structure your letter, copy and paste into a rough draft the list of qualities which the company uses to describe their ideal candidate. Make small lists under each quality of ways you fit that criterion and expand this into the meat of your letter. Those words, while perhaps mundane and redundant sounding, are of high importance to that particular company so treat them like nuggets of gold.
3. Brainstorming is not optional
Make a list of adjectives that you believe describe the motives of the company. Do not hesitate to look at how they describe the self in the “about” section of their website. If they call themselves fearless, flighty, and fresh, you best be thinking of all the ways which your cover letter will read fearless, flighty, and fresh.
4. Know your brand
In this scenario,you are your own brand. Often people are afraid or hesitant to talk about their accomplishments, skills, and otherwise amazing qualities. Imagine yourself as a particular flavour of Poptarts which you must get people to purchase. You would never say that the Poptart will taste like artificial blue raspberry flavouring. Rather, you would convince your potential buyers that yes, of course, blue raspberries are a real type of fruit, they grow in the untouched forests of the Amazon, and yes, of course, they are organic/a superfood.
5. Assume you are getting the job
Put yourself into the company by use positive phrases. Instead of, “I could increase daily hits to your website” say, “as web extraordinaire at your headquarters, I will raise web hits by 20 percent through the use of the following four point strategy.” This is all a part of making yourself appear indispensible. Pitch the things you will do that will improve the efficiency, reach, and creative potential of the company.
6. Come off like a real human being
The purpose of the cover letter is for your potential employer to decide whether or not they want to interview you. Your employer likely receives a plethora of very similar resumes, so use your cover letter to highlight that you are more than just experiences (resume)--you are also a desirable personality. Small steps towards seeming like a human being include: signing off in a friendly way, addressing your letter to the correct name of your would-be employer, highlighting your personal perspective, and explaining gaps in your resume.
7. Don't mess up your first first impression
Even if you are not applying for a creative job, formatting and design are critical. If I hate your font choice, I will not hire you. Before an employer sees you in person, your font is like your smile, your paper is like your clothes, and your formatting is like your handshake.
8. Be sneaky
Use your cover letter as a jumping off point. For example, in my cover letter, I always integrate a link to my online portfolio. Consider including several links to innovative sites or articles which help the employer understand your brand and your passions.
9. Do not hesitate to use alternative writing styles
The way of the stodgy and traditional cover letter is likely going kaput. Thus, in direct contradiction to my tip #1, consider giving employers what they did not ask for. For example, I might start a cover letter by describing my favourite word and relating it to their company’s vision, or I might tell a short anecdote to illustrate a certain principle.
10. Learn to hack the system
This involves a lot of thinking about what companies want, which mercifully is a very simple and universal answer: innovation. So try to figure out what other applicants are not doing and provide that--even if it feels like a risk.