Management October 29, 2019 Last updated October 28th, 2019 2,117 Reads share

What You Should Be Looking for In A Cover Letter

Things You Should Be Looking for In A Cover LetterImage Credit: DepositPhotos

If you are in the 40% of recruiters that want cover letters from candidates, you appreciate the value that the cover letter brings. The cover letter can reveal something you overlooked in a resume. Your business may have missed out on an ideal candidate if you hadn’t reviewed the cover letter.

Patty McCord the former chief talent officer of Netflix says, “Making great hires is about recognizing great matches.” You are doing yourself a favor by reading cover letters. You avoid missing out on someone whose resume didn’t reflect just how great of a match they were.

Look for the Basics First

You may be feeling overwhelmed about reading every single cover letter. If you are struggling to find excellent candidates, consider hiring a recruiting company. They know exactly what to look for and where to find it.

Do yourself a favor and start at the basics to toss out some of the competition. If the candidate didn’t take the time to correctly format the cover letter, it probably isn’t worth your time to read it.

Ask these 6 basic questions to narrow down the overwhelming stack of cover letters.

  1. Is the cover letter addressed to the right person?
  2. Does it have the correct date?
  3. Is the layout correctly formatted? 
  4. Did they address the letter to the right business? 
  5. Do they mention the particular role you are hiring for within the letter? 
  6. Do they have updated contact information that matches their resume?


Did the Candidate Research Your Business and the Position?

You can eliminate general cover letters by simply checking if the applicant mentioned your business in the cover letter.

Is it obvious that the applicant took the time to research your company? You worked hard on specifying job descriptions and the hiring posting. Make sure the information in the cover letter is catered more to your needs, than what they need from you.

Joyce Lain Kennedy, author of Cover Letters for Dummies, says “The resume focuses on you and the past. The cover letter focuses on the employer and the future.” Look to their resume for information about them. The cover letter should outline what they can do for you.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself While Reading a Cover Letter

  1. Does the candidate sound passionate and enthusiastic about the work they will be doing and your company? Passion drives performance and will ultimately lead to a superior employee.
  2. Do they mention your company’s mission, and do they want to help accomplish that? Someone who is ecstatic about what your company is doing will work hard to help you make it happen.
  3. Does the applicant mention why they want to work at your company? This can also reveal the passion they will have for their position.
  4. Are they interested in developing long term with your business? Employing someone is expensive. Finding the perfect match doesn’t matter if they quit prematurely.
  5. Would the candidate fit into your current company culture? Was it obvious they did research on your company culture and commented accordingly?
  6. Does the applicant mention specifics about what your company is in need of? This could come down to whether they read the job description or not. You want someone who reads the job description.
  7. Did they highlight problems you may have and how they will fix them? This can apply to the company or be position-specific.
  8. What are their achievements and how are they relevant to the role they are applying for? The candidate may just list their achievements. They are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t apply it to the position. A good candidate will outline how their achievements will benefit your company.
  9. Did the candidate underline keywords that show how their experience and skills match the position? This isn’t necessary but it does show they did their research on how to make themselves stand out in a cover letter.
  10. Are there basic spelling and grammatical errors in the cover letter? A cover letter can demonstrate strong writing abilities or lack thereof.

What Makes Their Cover Letter Unique?

Cover Letter Design

A candidate may take the unique approach of having the resume and cover letter match. This shows how much care they put into their application. This candidate probably has a keen eye for detail and wants to present themselves as professionally as possible.

Most candidates will not take this extra step. Matching their resume and cover letter is an excellent way for that candidate to make themselves stand out.    

Cover Letter Was Sent to Your Business, and Only You

If you are getting the feeling that this cover letter was sent to 10 different employers, you are probably right. A cover letter that has a copy and pasted feel could mean just that. It could also mean that the applicant did not take the time to research your business to try to stand out.

Eliminate Generic Cover Letters

The more specific the information is, the more research the candidate did. Eliminate generic cover letters.

What is it that makes them unique personally and professionally? What do they have to offer that no other candidate has? This shows you the passion and pride the applicant has for their work.

Look for Ownership Mentality

Yvonne Lyons, VP of RightSource Marketing explains her ownership mentality as, “I am incredibly invested in the company’s success, and everything I do reflects that—from the tiny details to the big picture.” She prefers everyone on her team to have an ownership mentality.

A candidate with ownership mentality is a rare unicorn and you want to make sure they are interviewed. This mentality harvests an excellent work ethic and passion. Ask yourself these few things to decide if the applicant is equipped with an ownership mentality.

Do they sound proud and passionate about the work they have done?

Does the candidate seem to approach work as if they owned it?

Does the Cover Letter Make You Curious?

One of the main things you want to consider after reading the cover letter is, does it make you want to read their resume? Do you want to know more about the candidate? When reading cover letters look for the people who leave an impression on you and omit the rest.

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Chad Warner

Chad Warner

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