As 2014 approaches I’ve been putting together a series of articles on the top tips and trends for resumes, cover letters, job searches, and LinkedIn profiles. In this piece I’m shedding light on what I see as the top cover letter trends going into 2014.
Evolution of the E-Note
The Internet and social media are rapidly changing the shape of how we job search. It can be daunting at times to keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of job searching as technology evolves. Even something as simple as the cover letter has succumbed to the digital age and all its advances. So how has the cover letter evolved? Essentially, it has adapted into a more concise, focused e-note sent via e-mail or uploaded in text format on a job board. The pressure to not be verbose and instead be to the point has never been more palpable—and the e-note is the culmination of that.
The e-note is about half the length of a traditional cover letter, written so it’s easy to read on a smartphone, and contains high-value facts drilled down to be as concise as possible—making each and every word count.
Punchy Subject Lines
Job seekers are getting wiser and more strategic in how they approach their job searches. Even down to being creative with the subject lines of the e-mails they send to employers with their resumes and cover letters. Some of the most effective I’ve seen name drop, contain a branding statement, ask a question, or find some other creative out-of-the-box way to grab the recipient’s attention. I’ll go more in-depth regarding name dropping later in the article—even name dropping in the subject line. For example, I had a potential writer who was referred to me by a current writer; and another by a colleague whom I admire. Both writers included the person’s name in a subject line that read like this:
Jane Smith suggested I contact you …
John Smith suggested I reach out to you about the writer opening you have …
Either way, both caught my interest, and I immediately opened their documents to review them. My colleague’s reputation precedes her, and the quality of the work my writer produces is so valuable that I was confident the writers referred to me by them would be very high-quality too. I encourage you to use the same effective strategy when applicable in your job search. And if you don’t have a name that you can drop, consider a different subject line—one that includes your name and the position title:
John Smith, CPRW – Executive Resume Writer
Long-term executive resume writer – John Smith
Attention-Grabbing Opening Lines
Opening lines have become increasingly more critical because it’s imperative that you capture the hiring manager’s attention. Believe me, their attention spans have shortened; they have hundreds of other applicants to review, and there’s a good possibility they’re looking at your information on a smartphone. I foresee more candidates moving away from the traditional “please accept this in response to …” and to something that immediately speaks to the employer—as it should.
Sharing Your Story
Engaging cover letters are the ones that get read. I see job seekers warming up more to sharing the “why” behind their desire for the position. While inserting accomplishment bullets is great for a quick relay of information, telling the story behind why you’re applying—the common thread between you and the position and the employer’s needs—is more compelling and engaging. On your resume, you don’t really get to share your story or explain in more detail the “why” behind your desire for the position. Without being too focused on yourself, the cover letter affords you the opportunity to make the connection and tell your story in an engaging and interesting way. Just remember to tie that to the needs of the employer and the position available. Everyone loves a good story—but the employer will still want to know what’s in it for them.
Quotes and Testimonials
A very powerful way to substantiate expertise and grab the hiring manager’s attention is through a quote that expresses the value you can offer a potential employer. Former supervisors or clients that can provide a one- or two-line testimonial of your experience and success is a great way to add credibility.
Within the first line of your cover letter or e-note, mentioning the name of your contact is a great way to ensure a connection and that your cover letter will be read. If someone referred you, mention it in your cover letter. It’s a very effective tool; and since referrals are the number-one way candidates find and secure employment, you’re leveraging a very effective method for getting attention—and the interview.
Adding a personal touch to your cover letter by providing a digital signature is also another growing trend. I think candidates are searching for any way they can find to set themselves apart and give their job search package a personal touch; and using a digital signature is one way that candidates are doing just that.
Another trend that I see growing in 2014 is including social media profile links at the end of the cover letter where the candidates put their signatures. When you sign a cover letter at the bottom, include a link to your video resume, online portfolio, online bio, or other social media profiles such as LinkedIn.com and VisualCV.com; it’s just another great way to control your personal brand and direct the employer to additional information they may find worthwhile when making a decision about whom to interview.
For a creative twist on this, try creating a PS at the end of your cover letter that says something like: