Why are so many cover letters poorly written?
Bad enough that recruiters stopped bothering to read them and most simply skip them? Maybe because the Cover Letters are simply written with the wrong assumption?
Work is a commodity (or – if you prefer – a service). The employer does not employ us because he wants to help us or because he values people with blue eyes. The employer wants the tasks to be carried out and the company functioning – that’s why he is looking for a person who will be able to provide it. Although we do not like such a comparison, in a sense we are like a washing machine or mixer – we have to perform specific tasks for a certain amount. Of course, unlike the mixer, we learn and develop, but all in all, it all comes down to the same thing.
If this analogy goes further, our CV is like a product card (or rating plate) and the Cover Letter is like an advertising offer . The CV gives guidelines on what we can do (i.e. whether we are a mixer that only whips, or maybe a mixer, blender and steam engine in one and we also have a timer and a music box and we shine with colors). When an employer looks for an employee, he first pays attention to the CV – just like we first pay attention to certain parameters of a product or service (functions, power consumption, price, etc.). When we initially have a certain pool of products that meet our parameters, we must decide which one to buy. What do we rely on? On the recommendation of the seller, opinions from the forum, advertising on TV, promotional newsletter (which apparently shows a lower price) – that is, on some form of advertising. The employer who wants to make a decision with which person who sent the CV wants to meet – after the initial verification of competence – also reaches for the “advertising folder” – that is, our Cover Letter. If you treat it like your advertisement – you won. However, if you treat him differently, it won’t be useful to you much. And most often, we don’t use the possibilities of the Cover Letter.
Who is the target? Me or the employer?
What do you think is the most important thing for everyone in the world? He himself. For each of us, we count primarily ourselves. Even those who give their lives for some ideas do so because this idea gives meaning to their lives. There is no life without ideas and there is no self for these people. For each of us, the world is “I-centric” (although we are reluctant to admit it). It’s just evolutionary – it’s about surviving. Therefore, we must be the most important to ourselves – otherwise we will not survive.
Unfortunately, sometimes our own perspective on ourselves does not allow us to act rationally – this is the case with Cover Letters. The first lesson we get about the Cover Letter is that there is to be a document in which we describe why we want to work in a given company and why we are suitable for this job . Note that this definition is very “I-centric“ – my Cover Letter is about why I want a job and why I am suitable for this job. All right – let’s think about what is important for our future employer . You or me? People who want to work with him and whom – so far he has not seen his eyes, or himself? The employer is the same person as everyone else – for him the most important is himself. Will he be interested in reading about the needs and aspirations of some person he does not know? Or will he be more interested in how YOU can help him run his business?
Assuming that we are the most important for each of us, the most important thing for our potential boss is how HIS life can change after he employs us, not how our life changes. He doesn’t really care (let’s be fair – do you care about his life? Nor do you – you want to change yours. But the key to this change is to show the potential boss that by hiring us he will change his life.
It’s just like any product. Marketers wanting to sell us a cream or a new washing machine show us how these products will change our lives. We will be more beautiful, more well-groomed, we will have more time. Would you watch an advertisement in which the washing machine manufacturer would talk about how much of his income increases when he just picks you up a new product? No – the marketer knows that he must show you the important FOR YOU benefits of having a new product. Just like you, you have to show the potential boss the benefits of employing you.
Form of transmission
When do you know your target? And to whom you have your message, you must choose the right form . Traditional Cover Letters are page long or two attachments. Such an attachment does not weigh much, but it requires work – opening and reading. The sign of our time is less and less time for anything. So choose the form of communication that has the best chance of reaching your target. Traditional company and serious position? A typical cover letter will be appropriate. Big competition and high probability that nobody has time for lists in attachments? Put important information in the body of the message. A non-standard company looking for creative employees? Do not send an ordinary letter – think of something that can reach such a person.
Means of communication – content
Let’s move on to the most important element – content. Building it effectively is like building a commercial and advertising offer. We need to think about what the recipient expects us, what needs (articulated in the recruitment announcement) and what elements of our product (i.e. our work) are worth emphasizing. We do not write in what we think is important in a “product” – only what could be important to the client (or employer). That is why it is so important to analyze the recruitment advertisement carefully and highlight those elements of our work on which the employer focused creating the advertisement.
These features also need to be motivated. Pay attention – when you buy something, important for us are such elements as:
- Recommendation of the seller or friends who already use it and are satisfied – in the case of looking for a job, this is how referrals to friends within reference programs and references work.
- Consumer awards– even though we don’t really have a clue about the principle of the particular award, it is enough that information about it appears on the product and we value it more and we think it is better and more reliable. For a jobseeker, such ‘rewards’ are all titles like ‘seller of the month’ or certificates confirming specific competences.
- Distinguishing features of a given product– why do we decide to buy this and not another product? The reasons are of course different, but pay attention to what merchandisers do in stores – two washing machines standing next to each other, even if they have identical parameters and a similar price, will be slightly differently described on the “product card” next to them. One has an emphasized spin speed and the other one, e.g. water consumption. Why is this done? In order to reach both consumers who care about savings (he will choose the one with lower consumption according to him – because he will think that it is smaller, just because nothing on the other one is written). As well as to the consumer who wants to take out dry laundry (similarly, no spin parameters are given on the latter). In the store, you don’t know what your needs are as a buyer, so you create different product cards to reach many people. When you write an application, in theory you know what your employer wants – you have this announcement. Therefore, it is worth choosing and emphasizing not the features that seem important to us, but those that the employer expects. The same rule applies to an interview.
I know it’s hard to think of your work as a product or service. We are people and we want to be treated like people. However, we have capitalism, and this means a system in which there is free circulation of goods and free competition. And when we are looking for a job – especially in a situation where its supply is less than demand, we simply have to beat the competition. We will not do this with reference to our employer’s needs and humanism. We can only achieve this by using the same rights as the company we want to get to – free market law.
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