Have you heard of a hook? Individuals who write professionally (e.g., writers for press releases and sales letters) will be the first to tell you your material needs a hook. The complicated part of the process is no one can tell you what the hook should be because it’s different for each job seeker.
A hook is something that draws readers in from the start, and entices them to continue reading. Since every cover letter will require a different hook, researching businesses will definitely be very advantageous for you. Your ultimate goal is to input uniqueness into each of your cover letters that others will overlook or not spend the time to address. Here are some tips:
1. Mention Specifics About The Company
Do you keep up on current company events? If you’re not reading the local newspaper at least twice a week, you’re missing critical information that can make a huge impact on your job search.
Press releases and articles are continuously written on company happenings. Without knowing this information, you’re kind of left in the dark.
Get into the habit of reading about what’s going on with businesses that would make ideal employers.
In addition to reading newspapers, subscribe to a business journal. Nearly every city possesses a business publication, so visit your local library to review a copy. Business journals offer a niche over local newspapers because these publications cover the happenings of local businesses. Topics of interest typically include mergers, new contracts, expansions, and so on. What great “food” to “feed” your cover letter!
“Restructuring is a necessary part of doing business, in my opinion. Countless companies over recent years have had to audit and appropriately reshape their existing operation. Thankfully, KSZX-TV did a great job of positively speaking about your upcoming changes. Your story piqued my interest, since I’m a consultant for businesses going through change, which requires the realignment of staff, adjusting inventory levels, and streamlining internal procedures.”
Other ideas could derive from commercials (e.g., company sponsoring an upcoming charitable function), a documentary on the owner or his/her invention, or about a community/networking event.
For example, mentioning:
“Mr. Franks, I heard your logistics manager speak at a conference last fall. With my recent employer, I’ve successfully implemented many of the suggestions Mr. Franks outlined in his seminar, such as realigning our just-in-time delivery system and retraining our staff. I was able to save our company an estimated $1.2M within just 6 months. Do you have some time so we can get together to discuss the logistics training position currently open with your company? Inspired by Mr. Franks, I am now a certified instructor on manufacturing, inventory, and procurement.”
2. Congratulate Company On A New Contract Or Expansion Plan
Everyone likes a pat on the back, including prospering and excelling companies. Weaving a sentence or two into an introductory cover letter with congrats of a recent announcement can provide a nice point of interest to encourage the hiring rep to continue reading your letter, and subsequently call you for an interview.
“Reading Construction Management Essential yesterday, I learned your business will undergo a 345,000 square foot expansion over the next six months. That’s fantastic! The Indianapolis area needs strong —and growing— businesses like yours.”
3. Highlight A Recent Article In A Trade Or Industry Publication
Publications can offer insight into your target industry, help you stay abreast of new technologies, and enable you to splash uniqueness into the content of your letter. Noting specifics from a recent industry publication can offer “freshness” to the body of any cover letter.
Remember, noting particulars your competitors oftentimes overlook is key to setting you and your letter apart. In fact, get into the habit of clipping articles from magazines, printing columns from e-newsletters, and jotting notations to use later when you’re knee-deep in your job search.
Center your attention on items that interest you, and can be referenced later. Maintain a folder of clippings so you don’t go crazy searching through countless magazines or newspapers for that perfect mentionable.
Increase your return by writing letters that focus only on an array of quality positions — avoid blasting a cover letter to “anything and everything.”
4. Comment On A Recent Management Change
While reading a newspaper or magazine, take special interest in a company’s upcoming or recent changes in management. One facet that is constant about business is employee turnover. Noting a recent management change tells readers that you are attentive to changes with the company. It may not catapult you onto the company’s payroll, but will offer a unique content slant to your cover letter.
If you’re extremely fortunate, the recent management change involves someone you’ve worked with in the past — and have a good history with! Listing the person’s name within your letter, along with noting specifics about that person’s management style or by including a compliment about this person, can serve as “eye candy” for anyone skimming your letter. Listing the name strategically within the starting sentence, or prominently at the beginning of a paragraph, can get your letter the attention it deserves.
In addition to beefing up your letter, clip the article from the newspaper, have it laminated, and include it in the envelope with your cover letter and resume. Laminating anything might sound like an odd suggestion, but it’s a unique action that is sure to draw attention. Individuals who track their public relations activities would enjoy a laminated copy of the article. The gesture is small, but it can make a huge difference.
5. Outline A Competitor’s Actions
Much as you think about job seekers vying for your perfect job, businesses eye the competition too. Mentioning specifics about a business’s competitor can unquestionably grab attention. There are a number of ways to learn about companies, such as through the media, from news stories and corporate communications to trade publications and newspapers. Imagine mentioning the competitor’s name within your letter. If you were on the hiring end of the process, would that catch your eye?
Spin the information into a positive for you. Let’s say the competitor is working with a new technology. Your response could be to outline your experience with the new tool/method, the depth of your skill level, and how you will apply it to help your target employer remain competitive… and maybe pummel their competitor into the ground. The company may be trying to catch up to integrate the new technology, so your letter could arrive at a pivotal time for them and you.
6. Provide Details About Product Lines, And How You Plan To Expand
Certainly individuals who have a direct impact on a company’s market share — business development professionals, account executives, marketers, inside/outside sales teams, and customer service representatives — will probably find this suggestion the most fruitful. Don’t feel you’re restricted exclusively to market share, of course you can cultivate and culminate specifics about product lines, present markets and territories, and take that information and determine how to favorably impact the company’s bottom line.
Remember, it’s about demonstrating to the hiring company that you have a vested interest in their financial success.
The best way to learn about products, internal challenges, and untapped territories (among others), in my opinion, is by befriending a person on the inside. For a full arsenal of information about the company, find an ally willing to answer your questions and one who will educate you with specifics. Don’t feel you’re seeking a modern-day Benedict Arnold, because much of the information you’re seeking goes home every day with the company’s employees.
Since you’re not tapped into that continuous information stream, expand your network to include someone who is.
Consider leveraging new networking tools, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Attending networking events that cater to your industry (or target industry) can also offer a much-needed platform for talking with individuals about a particular company. Your primary goal is to be given the information to penetrate the company for use to benefit the company.
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