There are many misconceptions about writing a great cover letter. I want to set the record straight on exactly how cover letters for those over 50 need to be written, keywords and phrases that need to be included, ad provide tips for writing a great cover letter.
I know there are hundreds if not thousands of articles, books, and YouTube video’s on writing cover letters for those over 50, but there needs to be a specific approach and use of words that you REALLY need to understand.
While these all have merit and some good advice, I want to illustrate what a cover letter REALLY should be all about and what its primary purpose is…which is getting the hiring manager or recruiter to call YOU and not someone else.
A Good Cover Letter Is Powerful and Attention-Grabbing!
If somebody fires a gun in the air, you will turn your head; a loud and vicious vicious-sounding dog will make you think twice about approaching. A loud siren is going to grab your attention and put you on high alert, or maybe the scream of a child in distress is going to call you into action – these are all things that are going to immediately grab our attention without much effort and contact us to act or make us take notice.
It would be best if you remembered that employers and recruiters must screen hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of resumes for every job opening.
Use this opportunity to start building your personal brand; use powerful action words that will grab their attention and want them to call YOU!
First, let’s look at what an action word is and why it is essential!
An action word is any word that evokes an image of you doing something. You lead the team or task instead of just participating in something. You directly researched and wrote a critical report, not just presenting a message. It has to carry a degree of power and evoke a clear picture in the recruiter’s mind.
There is nothing worse than using vague terms on your resume. The recruiter should be able to identify what you do, your key attributes immediately, and what accomplishments you can bring to the table.
The more important words you use, the more visual this will become.
It is super important to avoid weak and passive verbs!
Stay away from business jargon or clichés, or tired words and phrases. Bad word choices can weaken the strength and effectiveness of your cover letter and resume. Instead, make it a point to use commanding action verbs and avoid overusing the same verbs (such as “assisted,” “oversaw,” and “utilized”).
Recruiters and HR personnel will usually screen or just cover letters BEFORE they look at a resume. They look for reasons to trash resumes and make their pile smaller and more manageable. This is how they narrow down candidates…and poor cover letters or poorly written resumes, regardless of your qualifications, will get you trashed and will NOT grab anyone’s attention!
In its primary usage, a cover letter formally introduces you to recruiters or prospective employers and expresses your interest in the company and position. It allows you to show the recruiter or hiring manager how thorough you are…do your research on the company and tell them why you want to work for them and how you can fill the need and solve their problem.
Standout from the crowd…do not give generic textbook answers; it is insulting and not very thoughtful.
Get it right the first time…as you may only have one shot!
I am always shocked at people’s casualness in writing a good cover letter. I still cannot believe that so many fail at this essential task because of laziness.
It is also hard to believe how many people do not have enough common sense to rename files they send with their name – “MGhibaudi.doc” and not “resume.doc.”
Like being out in the wilderness, a job search is when you are out of your usual comfort zone and standard security. There are frequently no safety nets of an administrative assistant to correct your spelling and check your grammar.
So, do not get lazy!
Your fate is in your hands. EVERYTHING that comes from you will ALWAYS be a reflection of you and the quality of (or lack of) your work.
Suppose you have failed to take the time to write “Dear Mike” or “Dear Mr. Ghibaudi,” shame on you. Putting just “Current occupant” or “Dear Sir or Madam” does not reflect well on you or your candidacy…it will just be a lost opportunity.
Commit NOW to writing a good cover letter that will make them WANT to call you!
Here is what to include and what NOT to have:
Knowing what to include and what not to include in your cover letter is critical
What you NEED include:
- ALWAYS address your letter to a specific person if possible, not just a title or department (call the company if needed)
- Refer to the exact job (list title) you are applying for and include a reference number if one is given
- Describe why you’re uniquely qualified. Give relevant skills, experience, and accomplishments, but don’t simply repeat your résumé. This is a chance to sell yourself!
- Tell the employer something about yourself that might not be clear from your resume, pique their interest, but do not give the full story away.
- Use keywords and industry “buzz” words or terminology from the job posting or recruiter (as you should also do in your resume)
- After you’ve written your cover letter draft…put it down, do something else to clear and reset your eyes and mind. Then proofread your cover letter several times for correct spelling and grammar, then give it to someone else who can proofread it and give you an honest,t unbiased opinion.
Do not forget those of us dealing with the added challenge of age; a cover letter allows us to highlight our strengths and minimize the age factor.
Emphasize results, accomplishments, and achievements.
Things to AVOID at all costs:
- Don’t ramble or provide too much information! Three to four paragraphs is plenty.
- Generic language. Tailor your letter to the specific position.
- Don’t ramble or use filler language, such as, “I am writing to…” or “Let me introduce myself….” Get right to your point.
- Avoid any references, terminology, or wording that may age you. Rather than talk about your 30 or 40 years of experience, focus on your skills, how they were applied, and the outcomes related to the position you seek.
- Salary requirements. Save this discussion for the interview process!
Also, when writing a cover letter, tone down past,t job titles so you won’t seem overqualified. Instead of “vice president, says “senior manager” or “experienced senior executive.” It’s also important to show that you are eager and willing to invest in yourself to stay relevant and up-to-date.
Make sure to highlight any courses or professional-development activities that prove this point.
A Cover Letter Is Your FIRST Introduction to the Reader; Make It Count!
Employers want individualized, thoughtfully written cover letters that show why they should talk to you. Cookie cutter templates won’t cut it; they only show laziness and lack of attention…and are BORING to read.
They are okay to help get you going, but then MAKE IT YOUR OWN…let your uniqueness shine through!
Writing a good cover letter is your chance to send a personalized message to the recruiter or hiring manager and demonstrate why they need to bring you in and talk to you; think of a TV commercial and how it motivates you to action.
Your cover letter needs to do the same; it’s NOT just a formality…it shows your interest, professionalism, and attention to detail!
Convey your brand in your letter — your unique skills and strengths make you attractive to an employer.
An important marketing device
Writing a good cover letter serves the purpose of trying to catch the reader’s interest.
It is to a resume or CV (Curriculum Vitae) what a headline is to a book or article. A good one will draw the interest of the reader, but writing a bad one, or worse yet, not one at all, then no matter how well written your resume is, the recruiter, hiring manager, or potential employer will never see it – because it will be tossed in the trash can!
A good one introduces your resume to the company or organization and allows you to raise the value you bring (your value proposition).
It will emphasize why you want to work for that particular company and why you would be a good fit. It allows you to demonstrate the research you have done on the company and why you would be a good fit because you understand the company and may have been able to uncover a few pain points that you can help with (you did do that research, right?).
An effective cover letter engages the reader and encourages them to invite you for an interview. You want the letter to demonstrate in both form and style that you are neat, organized, efficient, and intelligent.
Conclusion – Tips for Writing a Great Cover Letter
Since we are in an older age group, it is essential to show that you are eager and willing to invest in yourself to stay relevant, and keep yourself up-to-date, so make sure you highlight any courses or professional-development activities that prove you mean it and place a lot of importance on your skills.
Too many of us let our skills fall behind the times, and those that do lose relevance. Keep up with the times and invest in your skills and industry knowledge. If you have not been doing so – stay relevant!
The final test is to honestly ask yourself if your letter makes the reader want to know more about you. If not, revise it, and then change it again until you have highlighted all the things that make you the best candidate for the job.
Remember that 30-second commercial and book cover analogies!
Make the reader want to talk to you, get them interested. Try being bold and create a more creative cover letter. Find a creative way to GRAB the attention of the reader, much like an attention-grabbing headline or an attractive, exciting book cover. Different color paper works well, as does add a professional picture of you.
It is the best way to guarantee that your work experience and accomplishments don’t get lost and negatively impact the decisions of employers, recruiters (internal or external), and hiring managers.
Is there a question you need to be answered or something I can help you with?
This site’s success will hinge on me helping you solve problems. Those over 50 faces more challenges than others younger than us when competing for jobs and getting doors open.
I invite you all to share your stories of challenges and successes. We all can learn from those who have faced the same challenges. The idea is to help and be helped – so please add your comment or insight!