I've been vetting a bunch of cover letters this week. Well done to everyone who gave it a crack! It's hard I know. Writing about yourself as though you are the best thing since sliced bread, when sometimes you don't feel like that.
But the higher up the food chain you go, the fewer and further apart are opportunities. Plus data tells us that people stay longer in c-suite roles so it's going to be even more competitive.
Your cover letter skills will have significant impact on your ability to land an interview, in addition to working your network.
But the differences between 'killer cover letters' and the 'works in progress' are extreme. Works in progress include passive language, compliant statements rather than confident positioning, going above and beyond. Ask yourself, what would a confident more leader-like version of myself do? How would she apply?
As a result, here are a bunch of thoughts in no particular order to help you get your cover letter mojo back on.
The purpose of your cover letter is to get your CV read - not to win the job, or even necessarily to win an interview. But to get someone to go "Wow, she sounds ideal. I need to read her CV".
Think of it as a business case - helping you develop the justification for your application. Why should someone invest in reading your CV? Not because you deserve it, but because your experience and expertise sounds like it would add value, that you have the potential to be awesome in the role and here's why....
It needs to tick off on key criteria in the advert - don't just provide examples from your work that you like or that sell the sizzle. Provide examples of your work that match the criteria they're asking for. Don't worry, you can do the value add near the bottom of the letter. Don't start with the value add or they'll think you're over qualified or not the right fit
It needs to address any big elephants in the room (ie you live in Sydney but the role is in Melbourne and you're keen to relocate).
You need to help the reader to see why you're ideal for the role with as many exact match credibility builders as you can (without going over 1 page, or cramming too much on the page via a smaller font or too wide margins)
You also get the opportunity to add a FEW non critical assets in that you think might sway the argument your way - Boards, Awards, Accolades & Opportunities, Global blue chip experience, high profile brands you've worked with or MBA/PhD or equivalent. Don't stack the cover letter with these. But one or two that help the business case.
Matchy matchy - use the exact wording of the advert or PD. Don't get creative and find different ways of saying it. They're either in a hurry skim reading, or sending it through a software scanner so it needs to be exact
Buzz word bingo - don't be afraid to play buzz word bingo with the acronyms, key terms or vernacular expressions that are required in your industry
Captain Obvious - you may feel like you're explaining the obvious. What might feel obvious to you, may be totally mystifying to a reader who doesn't know you, your current company or the sort of work you do. Don't make people read between the lines. Don't be cryptic.
Sound confident. Confident is mistaken for competence. Confidence is queen. Ask yourself - what would the confident Rockstar me do? How would the confident Rockstar me write this cover letter? What examples would she use? Nice is not enough. At this level of your career it needs to next level.
Avoid trying to sound funny - research tells us that funny doesn't work for women when someone doesn't know us. It works for us when people know us, but not before.
Avoid trying to sound privileged - privilege works for men, not women. (Private schools, prestige clubs etc - I know, it's unfair but until times change don't run the risk) The assumption is that if you're privileged you'll not be hungry enough so you are more likely to "lean out" or take career breaks.
More is not necessarily better - Keep your business case succinct. If you get to interview, then you can expand on your examples. White space on a cover letter makes it easier to read as well
It must include relevant factual examples from your career history - a credibility booster
Anchor examples with time, job title and company - this builds credibility even more. We're addicted to time and place narrative form (once upon a time in a land far far away). It makes us feel safe. So the reader will feel far safer if you include these anchors in your cover letter.
Don't be apologetic or start negative. - don't start your cover letter saying that while ouu don't have XYZ experience they ask for, you do have ABC experience.
On that note I want you to remember my brother. A couple of Xmases ago he sent an email home to mum saying he couldn't be there for Xmas. Of course that's the bit that mum read and remembered. She had an initial disappointed reaction. It was some time later that she went onto read that he would be there for the 5 days prior to Xmas.
You don't want a reader to do that with you or they might simply dump your business case/cover letter before they get to the bit with the good news.
So start with the positive and the good news before you get address the elephants.
Always be sending cover letters - even if you need to use PDF Pro to add it to the front page of your CV to submit via a web portal.
Keep it professional - no need to refer to hobbies or other activities in your personal life unless it's something they've asked you to address or enables you to demonstrate a great fit - ie they're asking for someone with grit and determination and the best example you have is your recent ultra-triathlon win. However use sparingly.
I'm sure there are more, but this should give you a great head start.
And good luck!
#womenofimpact #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #career