John is a connoisseur of words who is currently on a journey to fully understand what it means to become a true wordsmith and marketer.
Seven Simple Steps to Improve Your Application Letter
With the world facing a global health issue, getting a job has become even more challenging. Almost 115 million people lost their work in 2020, and that number is still rising. This statistic means two things: You need to improve your application letter. Job hiring managers are now way pickier.
Why Listen to My Application Letter Job Hunting Advice
Fortunately, I have over seven years of experience in content creation and management, digital marketing, and strategy development. Part of my role is to hire people. And as surprising as it may seem, most application letters that I have reviewed are so unprofessional that there's no point even checking the attached resume -- regardless of the possibility that I may have skipped someone qualified.
Here's what I want you to get from that: even if you're a super-smart coder, a graphic artist with undeniable talent, or an operations manager with 11 years of experience, if you skip polishing your application letter, most hiring managers will skip you too.
Why Do Hiring Managers and Business Owners Hate Poorly Written Application Letters?
You have every right to think:
"Hey, I have the experience and expertise; you shouldn't judge me purely on my application letter!"
True! You are absolutely correct.
However, you must understand that no one can know that without interviewing you. And well-written, error-free cover letters for jobs tell hiring managers three essential things:
- The candidate is careful, meticulous, and sincere.
- The candidate is proactive enough to take the time to research the company.
- The candidate is competitive and wants to stand out, hence the letter.
Now, I can list so many more, but these three would want me to instantly know more about you than just the applicants who only sent a few lines of hello and an attached resume.
If you were the receiving end with over 20 people trying to convince you that he/she is the one, would you genuinely prioritize those without an application letter?
If reading the above has convinced you that an application letter will land you the initial interview, then here are seven simple things to improve your application letter. Note that this article isn't about teaching you how to write an application letter; it's about refining, polishing your work. I assume that you already know how to write one, but it's just not impressive. Let's fix that.
Application Letter: Job Guaranteed | How to Improve Your Cover Letter in Seven Easy Steps
1. Review Formatting
First things first -- keep it simple, concise, and uniform. I cannot reiterate this enough. People are visual beings, and we prefer everything aesthetic. Think about shopping for groceries. Do you actually put those deformed milk boxes into your cart?
When things are asymmetrical, in your case, your font or font size, we are easily discouraged. And that first impression can make a negative bias toward reading your application letter's content.
The first quick step is to make sure that your application letter doesn't have any awkward formatting.
Your font and its size should be the same throughout
- Ariel for print and documents
- Sans Serif for emails
- Font size 11 or "Normal" for emails
- Skip italicizing or bolding texts
- Use bullets rather than numbers for lists
- Never use more than one period to end a sentence
- Accurate heading (print only, not applicable for email cover letter)
The first step is making sure your letter, at a glance, is pleasing to the manager's eyes. I know, it's so simple. Again, the majority of you might already keep this in practice, but some still don't.
These irregularities often happen when you copy a text from the internet to your letter and forget to "paste without formatting." So always check twice!
The next step is obvious, and even someone without formal education should understand that formalities should have zero spelling mistakes. But, again, I have reviewed countless application letters with tons of spelling mistakes -- even more for grammar (but we can be more forgiving on that).
Spelling mistakes range from word misuse like:
- effect and affect
- insure and ensure
- it's and its
- their and there
- your and you're
- proper names
The quickest way to fix this is to use a spelling and grammar checker like Grammarly. Other than that, ask a friend to review it quickly for you. We are so invested in what we write that we often miss mistakes, which is normal. So having an extra pair eliminates that bias.
Another workaround is to let your letter rest for three hours before reviewing it. If you leave your work for a while (a day or more), you become more detached from it and will eventually see mistakes you've missed.
3. Review the Job Posting
Wait, what? Well, what you've just read is correct. Review the posting again. Most job posts from top companies will have a keyword or catchphrase that you need to use as your subject line. Some even require you to write in a specific format or start your application with a certain word or two.
I have created job posts identical to what I've mentioned beforehand. And let me assure you that one out of four applicants fails to read it in its entirety. So always review the posting. Don't be too complacent.
You might write a remarkable application letter, but without following the instructions to qualify, it's going to waste.
4. Address to a Specific Person
As much as possible, again, as much as possible, do find out the job poster's name. In most cases, job postings themselves feel like a letter -- you will find the poster's name at the bottom.
If you seek work on LinkedIn, this information is easier to find as the platform always frontloads it. This style is also true to similar job posting platforms like Freelancer.
Some companies publish their career opportunities on their website, which can get tricky. If you found the job posting without any name, don't immediately settle for "To whom it may concern." Try and research their company on LinkedIn.
If you can connect with their employees, do so. From there, message one to ask for their hiring manager's name. If they don't have a LinkedIn profile, go with "Dear Ma'am/Sir" or "Dear Hiring Manager." These two options are more polite and direct.
5. Refine Your Introduction
Your first paragraph should answer these immediately and concisely.
- Who you are
- The position you're applying for
- How did you find out about the job
- Strongest qualifications you have
Here's a quick template:
"I'm John, and I'm responding to the job posting on Facebook Group Writers Unite. I'm interested in the writer position, and I know that I'm an exceptional fit for the role with my seven years of copywriting experience."
It's concise, answers the questions immediately, and doesn't feel like it came from a template.
"But, hey! Isn't that too straightforward!"
However, the intro is there to tell the hiring manager all the information they need quickly. Everything else is no longer essential. The hiring manager will send your application to the back of the list if your opening is over 70 words long with merely fluff details. Unless you can write something exceptional, then go with what's simple.
Look, I'm writing to mainly help the average Joe applying for a position that only pays a basic salary. Strengthening your opening paragraph won't do much. Unless you're applying for an executive role, stick to my sample -- fewer mistakes, straight to the point, and a higher chance of landing an interview.
Leave the bells and whistles in the second paragraph.
6. Sell Yourself Only in the Second Paragraph
Whenever you see an ad on Facebook or YouTube, don't you feel attacked when the ad promptly forces you to buy a product or service? It isn't delightful. The same thing is true whenever your first paragraph tells me your most outstanding achievement right away.
See, I'm not even sure if you were applying for the writer or the sales rep role because you were selling so hard about what makes you stand out. That's why your opening paragraph should give me the essentials.
Suppose my company is hiring five different positions, and you forgot to include the catchphrase, or your subject is too generic. In that case, your last chance of informing me where I should categorize you is in the first paragraph.
Your second paragraph is the best place to educate your hiring manager on why you're the best person for the job. Talk about your:
- Greatest achievements
- Previous experiences
Again, however, be concise and specific. I prefer reading specifics:
"I used Adobe Illustrator to create an infographic that drove 10,000 monthly visits to my website" is so much better than "I know how to use Adobe Illustrator."
Of course, you have your resume for that, but please understand that your resume encompasses every detail. Here, you only want to mention the things that can absolutely make you stand out and land the interview.
Answer: what's one thing that makes you unique and suitable for the job.
7. Thank You and Leave a Call to Action
Last but not least is to show a little positive attitude. The quickest way to demonstrate that is by showing that you're thankful. Be thankful because the hiring manager took time considering you as a candidate, reading your application letter, and possibly setting up an interview.
However, you shouldn't stop there. You should never forget to include a call to action. In this case, adding a "please send me an update soon" or "please respond at your most convenient time" can go a long way.
By the way, please include your contact details at the end too. Apart from your email, leaving a number or Skype (or any communication app) detail helps.
Now that you know how to refine your application letter, job hunting will no longer be that challenging. Of course, what I shared with you isn't engraved in stone. Practices can change, and other hiring managers can have different views. You should also add the fact that every role requires a different approach. So always read the posting carefully. If it requires you to include links to your previous works, please add them to your letter.
However, I believe that the steps above is fundamental. You can diversify according to your needs. The steps are there only to guide you to improve your application letter, which increases the odds of landing an interview.
Having a well-written application letter can make a difference. If you feel that you are qualified, you shouldn't be complacent -- even if you have 20 or 30 years of experience. Give this a try if you're still looking for work.
Also, since you were kind enough to read my article thoroughly, please feel free to use this free cover letter sample job template (generic, only a starting sample).
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 John Emerson Conde