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As recruitment processes have gone completely digital since the pandemic began, hiring professionals have been placing greater emphasis on certain job-search tools over others, according to new data from TopResume.

In a survey of more than 300 hiring managers, recruiters, and HR professionals, TopResume asked participants how their hiring preferences have changed since the COVID-19 crisis began. The survey revealed that recruiters care more about cover letters and thank-you notes now than they did before the coronavirus transformed the job market.

With widespread unemployment driving higher volumes of applications to nearly every open role, it may come as a surprise that recruiters are sparing a few minutes to review cover letters — especially when, historically, only about half of all cover letters were ever actually read. Similarly, while most employers valued post-interview thank-you notes prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the TopResume survey found that these messages now carry even more weight during the selection process.

Why have these documents taken on greater importance? It’s simple: Employers are seeking a connection.

A 2019 survey by TopInterview and Resume-Library found that 70 percent of employers consider a candidate’s personality to be among the top three factors in deciding whether to extend a job offer. With in-person interviews currently out of the question, talent acquisition professionals are turning to other touch points for clues about a candidate’s personality and potential cultural fit.

If you’ve been overlooking these documents, it’s time to rethink your job-search strategy. Here’s how you can leverage these valuable communication tools to connect with potential employers.

Creating a Connection With a Cover Letter

Even with a slick design, the average resume is a fairly cut-and-dried document. It doesn’t use pronouns such as “I” or “me,” and it’s often written in incomplete sentences to get its message across in the fewest words. While resumes are good at quickly and succinctly explaining a candidate’s qualifications and value to the company, they often struggle to convey a candidate’s personality and build a connection with the reader.

Cover letters, however, provide job seekers with an opportunity to connect with a hiring professional in a different way. Most cover letters are broken into three sections: an introduction that explains why you’re interested in the role, proving that you’ve done your homework on the company; a middle section that demonstrates how you meet the job requirements; and a closing paragraph containing a call to action.

As you’re drafting your cover letter, consider how you can tailor the document to better reflect your personality and connect with the reader. For example:

  1. Use of language: Does the language you use give the reader a glimpse into your personality and what it’s like to work with you?
  2. Storytelling: Are you explaining your qualifications in an engaging way, or are you merely summarizing your resume? Whenever possible, consider using an anecdote to illustrate you have the skills the employer seeks.
  3. Connecting the dots: If you have an unconventional path, are looking to change careers, or are applying for a position outside of your usual career path, are you clearly explaining to the reader why you’re qualified to do this job? Are you translating your experience and skills into terms the reader will appreciate?
  4. Bonus details: Have you offered additional information that’s not included in your resume but supports your case for getting the job? The cover letter is a great place to overcome potential objections to your candidacy and supplement your application. For instance, if you’re applying for remote positions, you might note that you’re comfortable with online collaboration tools and digital communication or that you have a dedicated workspace with reliable high-speed internet.

If your cover letter merely summarizes your resume, then it’s not working hard enough for your job application. Reexamine your cover letter and consider how you can incorporate some of the elements above to showcase your personality and build a connection with the reader.

Sending a Memorable Follow-Up

The interview process — even when it’s conducted via phone and videoconference — is your best chance to forge a personal connection with the hiring manager and convince them you’re the right person for their team. However, as TopResume’s recent data shows, it’s important not to discount your post-interview thank-you note. While your message will likely be delivered electronically — there’s no point in sending a thank-you to the office if no one is there to receive it — you can still use it to reinforce the connection you made during your Zoom interview.

Send a tailored thank-you note to each of your interviewers within 24 hours of your meeting. Use this opportunity to not only reiterate your interest in the role, but also remind your interviewer of the rapport you built during your conversation and why you deserve to make it to the next step in the hiring process. Consider incorporating the following elements into your thank-you note:

  1. Small talk: What details did you learn about the interviewer — such as a favorite sports team or hobby — that you can use to personalize your message? Bonus points if you discovered a shared interest that helped you connect with the interviewer. Mentioning these details will make your follow-up more memorable.
  2. Selling points: You don’t need to summarize all of your qualifications, but you should highlight the skills or parts of your experience that your interviewer seemed most interested in. Remember, you want to remind the person why they were excited about the prospect of you joining the team.
  3. Bonus details: If you forgot to mention something during the interview that you believe will help boost your candidacy, this is your chance to share the details. This is also your opportunity to overcome any objections that might have arisen during your interview.

Many aspects of the recruitment process will become increasingly automated over time, even after we flatten the curve and head back to our physical offices. However, human connection will always play a vital role in the matchmaking between corporations and candidates. It’s important for hiring professionals and job seekers alike to look for opportunities to make a connection with one another, despite the layers of technology between them.

Amanda Augustine is the resident career expert for TopResume and its sister brands, TopInterview and TopCV. Follow Amanda on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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