Guest post by Nick Taylor of the astonishingly good marketing recruitment company, Forward Role
You are not a patient person.
If a writer hasn’t got a reader’s attention in the first sentence of a book or an article, most people won’t finish reading it. As readers, we have become attuned toward scanning articles for the information we need, and discarding the rest.
But if you don’t finish reading articles that capture your attention, how can you expect an employer – a person lumbering through hundreds of applications – to read a cover letter that doesn’t capture theirs?
In marketing, your cover letter counts so much more because unlike many industries, it directly reflects your ability to do your job. You need to know how to market yourself, and it all starts with the opening sentence.
Open with a punch!
The first sentence you write has to be your best. It’s as simple as that.
If you have any impressive achievements amidst that cacophony of qualifications – prestigious awards, degrees from world-class universities – find a way to open your cover letter with them.
Don’t worry too much about sounding cocky. Employers won’t hire you on the grounds that you’re modest and likeable. They’ll hire you because you can do your job better than the other candidates, so before you get to the interview room to show them your personality, ensure that you have their attention from the get-go.
A lot of candidates wrongly assume that as long as the achievements get put somewhere in the application, they’ll get read. You need to do as much of the work as you can, because if an employer has to make an effort to find what sets you apart, they probably won’t.
If your cover letter is generic, it only tells your employer that you’re not looking for a marketing job at their company, but rather just a job in general.
Take a look. Do you explicitly mention the company name and what they do? Have you outlined what it is in particular you are attracted to in the company?
Employers want candidates that take the company seriously, so do your research and make each cover letter about the employer. Link your previous marketing experience to the job you’re applying for, specifying any situations you’ve managed to overcome that have been pivotal in the development of your career.
You’re essentially selling your services, so make it clear how hiring you will benefit them. It’s salesmanship 101: market the service to benefit the user.
There is no excuse for not proofreading, which is why poor grammar and syntax so often marks the difference between successful and unsuccessful candidates.
If you know any pedants that could help you in your hour of need, get in touch with them. There’s no need for marketing expertise; in fact, it can help that your proofreader doesn’t understand marketing, because it liberates them to focus purely on the grammatical errata. You could even swap with someone else you know who’s updating their CV.
The last thing you want is for your application to be littered with deprecating grammatical ironies like the ever-famous, “I have great attention to detial” or homophone disasters like “I won’t waist your time”.
If you make any of those clangers, you’re kind of asking to be excluded from the employer’s final shortlist.