5 Steps To Getting Your Cover Letter On Point

The job market is competitive, especially for graduates. Before you spend time searching, writing, proofreading and submitting, it’s crucial that you know how to align your application with the job you’re applying for. Just ask expert Amy Greene of Ask a Manager, who says that – while many people think their resume and cover letter are fine – they are nearly always the problem.

Let’s get this over with.


  1. Read with a fine-tooth comb

Your first and most valuable resource is the job description itself. Attend closely to what the employer is saying. Note the key attributes that they are looking for. Repurpose the specific vocabulary on your resume. For example, if ‘analytic thinking’ is a key attribute in the job advert, it must appear within your application.

Continue through the job application. As you find an attribute, demonstrate how you satisfy that criteria. Proceeding in this way makes your resume clear to read and easier for you to write. You will communicate to the employer that you are thorough and an appropriate candidate. A clear, relevant, shortish resume shows respect for the time of whoever will be evaluating it.


  1. Kill your darlings

As the famous literary saying goes, a good application requires ruthless editing. What you don’t include on your resume is just as important as what you do.

Nothing that an employer reads on your application should seem out of place or make them wonder why they just read it. When employers are receiving an average of 75 applications per advert, it’s crucial not to waste their time. As a graduate without much relevant experience it can be difficult to know what to include.

Any jobs you left after a few months should not appear on your application. If you worked as a barista, ‘latte art skills’ and ‘making filter coffee’ should be scrapped. Teamwork, punctuality and communication should stay.

It’s always helpful to get an outside mind to look at your application. Have them be strict and point out any irrelevant material. Cutting what you’ve written or skills you’re proud of can be hard but editing is crucial for success.


  1. Read between the lines

In reality, a job advert presents more information than just the facts of the role. Consider the tone of the advert. Is it brief? Highly technical? Do they include information about the history of the company or just focus on the role being advertised?

This meta-content is valuable because it gives you insight into the culture of the workplace. If the advert is concise and focused on the role, your application should match. If you notice that half of the posting is focused on the culture and history of the workplace, then your application should mention and connect with that.

You should also consider how a job advert makes you feel. If the advert is written in a demanding tone with little human focus and you are someone who values a caring, involved culture, then the position might not be a good fit.

Reports show that poor culture fit can make an employee 15% more likely to consider leaving. Reading between the lines benefits the employee and the employer by matching people with the workplaces they’re most likely to succeed in.


  1. Research beyond the advert

With the availability of employer information, researching a company is an easy and valuable tool. Checking in with an employer’s website, blog and social media can give you insight into their values and attitudes. The more you know about an employer, the better able you are to align your application.

The second benefit of research beyond the advert is to get a more realistic picture of an employer. A job advert is a sales pitch in its own way and will highlight all the best features of a position. Google reviews are valuable for a glance at some real world feedback; if the reviews are unanimously low this could be a red flag. Glassdoor is another fantastic resource for research. Employees post specific details about a workplace including the realities of the position.


  1. Apply with integrity

The ultimate goal of tailoring your application is to allow you to apply with integrity. Genuine interest in a position will improve the quality of your application. Employers can see this and it’s the reason why generic applications are such a bad idea.

A generic application means that you don’t actually know the requirements of the job you are applying for. It’s disrespectful to an employer. Employer’s want to feel special and the best way to convey this is if you believe that they are. Articulating why you have chosen to apply for this role specifically is essential. After all, if you do not have any particular interest in the position then you probably won’t be a good employee.

Tailoring your application is not an exercise in deception. When you tailor your resume, you streamline your application to show that you are the best fit to the employer’s needs. When these match, the position is likely to be one you are genuinely well suited too and can grow to be good at.

Tailoring your application is as much about you as it is about your employer. Fine-tuning makes your application more likely to be successful but it also tells you whether the job is right for you. Tailoring is a valuable skill in the job application process that will benefit you throughout your career.


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