Composing the perfect cover letter and online profile can be incredibly difficult—more difficult than most think. Crafting sentences, cohesiveness, language, and your delivery is a lot like homework (the kind you put off until absolutely necessary). Writing about yourself is hard. Presenting your talents based on what an employer is looking for can feel even harder.
Well, you no longer have to remain stumped. The secret to writing about yourself? Understanding your audience. We’ll show you how to do it and apply those insights to your cover letter and web presence.
Understanding Audience & What It Means For How You Write About Yourself
The first thing English majors are often taught in their undergraduate program is the importance of audience. Every well-known author, columnist, marketing guru, and PR representative knows the ins and outs of their audiences. It’s also what great resume writers know how to do—and now you will too.
Understanding your audience as a job seeker is imperative in understanding how best to impress those you want reading what you share about yourself. Who is looking at your LinkedIn profile? What do they value in the right candidate? What are they hoping to learn from reading your resume? What is their age? What is their role in the company?
Great authors do their homework, which is exactly the approach you should take when writing your application materials, too. To put in terms of the Kennedy Principle, “Ask not what a company can do for you—ask what you can do for the company.”
To learn more about your audience (the employer!), first you should look at their website to find their mission statement, employee biographies, and company founding. These can be incredibly helpful in understanding the company and their values from the roots. After a thorough analysis of the website, next you should find the company’s social media. This will give you an idea of how they interact with other people and companies in a public space. In this, take note of their tone, writing style, vocabulary, followers, and contacts to better understand how to communicate with those in the company. Lastly, research the contacts you find. What social media do they have? What do they post about (if anything)? Do they have a lot of pictures with their family? Do they repost a lot of company posts? How do they carry themselves online?
All of this information is important for truly understanding and getting to know the company, its people, and the values which make up the community’s atmosphere. This allows you to better know your fit inside the company and what you can do for their team.
Audience & Your Cover Letter
Oh, the dreaded cover letter. Does anyone even read these anymore? Here are the facts: Cover letters, though not as prevalent in today’s world, are still around and asked for by employers. So, it is best to first understand the cover letter and what its role is in the application process.
Cover letters are a chance to give yourself a voice before being reached over the phone, email, or in-person interview. It functions as the first round of explaining why you feel you make a good fit for the position, how you feel the company is a good fit for you, and why you stand out in the pool of other applicants.
Don’t be fooled, though. Cover letters are not meant to be lengthy essays with the intention of discussing every small detail about who you are and where you’ve been. Think about it: Who is the audience for your cover letter? Someone sorting through hundreds of resumes and cover letters. If you were reading that many cover letters, would you want to read a lengthy, block paragraph essay? Not likely!
It’s best to keep your At Sound Advice, we advise our clients to write their cover letters to be short, succinct, and to-the-point. This person needs a concise explanation about who you are, what you value, and what you bring to the table in regards to their company so that they can decide if you belong and how you’ll fit in.
Your general formula should stack up like this:
- First: A small introductory paragraph demonstrating that you understand the company and what it’s trying to achieve in hiring for the position
- Next: A bulleted list outlining your core skills and experiences as it relates to those needs
- And finally: A brief conclusion giving your thanks for the opportunity – this is also an excellent place to briefly explain why you’re making a change and how the company aligns with what you’re looking for.
Knowing your audience and how to best reach their needs will help you better understand how to craft your cover letter in such a way that you do stand out. Just like in life, reading the room and paying attention to those around you will help you to better understand how to best reach them and earn their respect.
Your Online Presence
The digital realm works in a similar way to the physical writing. Though biographies on LinkedIn may seem like a different beast than a cover letter, it should be approached in exactly the same way.
In the case of online forums, the audience is much wider and less known. When you write a cover letter, you are writing one specifically crafted with a position and company in mind. But on the internet, you are less likely to know who will view your page, when, and why. Do not panic.
You are a human in the professional world. You have the ability to reach people the same way you would with any other writing. Be short, succinct, and to-the-point. Most people do not want to spend the time reading about everyone’s life story on their LinkedIn page. They want to get the jist, know your skills and values, and find the pulse of what you’re about as a member in your professional field. Write your biographies, skill sets, and experiences short and sweet. Get right to the point so those viewing your page will be more likely to skim through and raise an eyebrow in interest rather than skip right through without the slightest hesitation because they don’t feel like reading an entire prologue to a novel.
Empathy is The Key to Connecting (& Being Remembered!)
The golden rule you learned in kindergarten still applies: treat others the way you want to be treated. You don’t want to read an endless cover letter or flat, boring bio, and no one else does either. Don’t make your audience do the hard work of having to sift through what is important about you as a possible hire.