Impactful cover letter
This video provides a short summary to creating an effective cover letter.
A huge warm welcome to the session today. We are on part two, which is advanced personal branding and positioning using LinkedIn. In today’s session, there is a workbook, so I’m going to drop it into the chat box now. Obviously, this will be available for all those who are watching on-demand as well. Part two is all around, okay, we’ve done the headline, what about the whole rest of the LinkedIn profile?
We’re going to make your profile all-star, and we’re going to look at some super advanced strategies then to harness your profiles into opportunities. So we’ll be looking at a seven-part scaffolding for your about section to make sure people are inbound, they’re contacting you for opportunities rather than the other way round. We’re going to add media to your featured section to create a showreel of highlights. We’re going to make quantifiable impact statements for your work experience history, which you can use on the profile, but also in your CV and cover letters too. We’re going to go through all the profile sections that are going to create the biggest gains for you.
So let’s start with these all-star profiles. The first thing that we’re going to do is create a personalised URL for your LinkedIn profile. When you first get a profile, you will get a normal link and then it will have your name, however you’ve written it, on the profile plus a series of numbers. Now, the one thing that we can do is turn LinkedIn into basically a landing page, a little bit like a personal website. So you’ll see that I’ve changed mine to Hannah Roberts Coaching. I could change it to hyphen coaching hyphen training, if I wanted to highlight that; or if I was still in chemistry, it could be hyphen chemistry. So you could use between one to three key words after your name to really personalise your URL. I’m going to show you how to do that now as well on the profile. Again, this is just for now, it’s not forever. You can change that URL link up to four times in 160 days, or 180 days, so you’re not stuck with it forever. You can try it out, see how you like it, and change it. Imagine at the end of a talk, if you can say, ‘Come and find me on LinkedIn, I’m Hannah Roberts Coaching,’ it’s going to be so much easier for people to find you on LinkedIn too. Of course, the more you add these key words, the higher up the search rankings you become when people type in those key words as well. So what we do, yes, is we go to edit public profile URL, which is on this righthand button here, and we click this edit button. You can just change the end of it and then click save.
The next section we’re going to come to is the about section. So once someone has been attracted into your profile, probably because you have either put a post out there, or you’ve commented on someone else’s post and they’ve gone, ‘That headline really speaks to me,’ they will click through and they will land on your profile. One of the first things they get to is your about section. What I see the most in about sections is people make it all about them, and it’s fine if that’s what you’ve done so far, this is not about shaming here, this is about how can we make that even better based on what you’ve done already. So I’ll see one of two things, either people will only talk about themselves, their achievements, things like that; or they’ll talk about themselves in the third person, like ‘Hannah is a chemist, blah, blah, blah,’ and the issue with that is we all know that there is a person, a real person, behind that profile, so we don’t want to talk about ourselves in the third person, because it, quite frankly, looks a little bit strange at times. So we’re going to do things a little bit differently. I’m going to go through our seven-part scaffolding and then I’ll show you an example.
Right here, and I’ll put it in the chat box again, in the workbook you’re going to find a series of examples for those different types of strategies, whether that’s jobs, collaborators, or clients, or even more visibility. There’s lots of examples in that. So we’re going to start with two to three questions that are directed at your ideal person and/or the problem that you solve. So, in my particular example, I say, ‘Struggling to manage it all, feeling lost when it comes to what’s next.’
Then you’re going to go into the introduction, one sentence to introduce yourself. Now, this could be summing up what you do or how you relate to the problem that they have. This is your ideal person’s problem. Then we’re going to go into the ultimate benefit of what you do. So three to six sentences outlining your vision, the impact you want to create in the world, and how it relates to that particular person you want to talk to.
Then we’re going to move into part number four, the problem. Two to three sentences describing the problem or the obstacle they face in more detail. The fifth part of the scaffolding is how. Two to three sentences that describe how you can personally help with that; what’s your particular method for helping. This is probably the easy part. This will be the part that you’ll be like, ‘Oh, this is what I do every day, this is really easy to talk about.’
The next part will be easy, why you? Three to four paragraphs on why you are the person to help them. I want you to split this out into your credentials, why are you the credential person to help them; what qualifications, skills, all that kind of thing, do you have to prove you can help; and then also why you? If we put you and somebody else who has the exact same qualifications next to each other, why would we pick you over the other person? Let’s have something in there about your personality traits or natural talents as well.
Then, finally, we want what’s called a call to action. If somebody has read through all of that and they’ve gone, ‘Tick, tick, tick, yes, this person’s talking about me and I feel that they’re the person who I want to collaborate with, have an informal chat about an interview, or even speak to because their research or what they’re doing is aligned to what I’m doing,’ we don’t want to just leave it like the end. We want to have what’s called a call to action, which means what should they do if they’re interested? I tend to say, ‘If you’re interested in having an informal chat, simply drop me a message on LinkedIn today.’ Or, ‘If you’re interested in collaborating, simply drop me a message on LinkedIn today.’ Whatever it is, we want to keep them on LinkedIn and keep them in our inboxes. So, one, you can see the efforts that you’re making on LinkedIn have tangible returns, you’ll start to get notifications into your inbox; but also if you send them off to visit my website, go off here, go off there, then we tend to lose people in the process as well. They’ll go get a drink and they’ll forget to take the action you want them to take.
So would it be helpful to have a quick look at what that looks like in reality. So if you see on my profile, depending upon if you have creator mode switched on, so this is a new feature, relatively new for 2022 for LinkedIn, without creator mode, it goes from headline to about section; but if you’re somebody who is going to be creating content for LinkedIn, and it wants to highlight your content, you can turn on creator mode, which means you’re going to get more visible. So that gives you the ability to put five hashtags that you talk about under your profile here.
The first thing it will come to is a featured section rather than your about section. After that, it comes to the about section. So the thing about the about section is it’s not just one big, long piece of text, it’s got what’s called a fold and a see more button, which means that in order for somebody to read your about section, they have to want to click the see more, which is why we always start with two to three sentences that are directed at the person you want to speak to. You see here, if you resonated with struggling to manage it all, feeling lost when it comes to what’s next, you might click see more. Then we’ve got that one sentence to introduce who you are and how you relate to the problem. So it could be an extended version of your LinkedIn headline that you’ve already worked on.
Then we go into the ultimate benefit of the thing that you do. So this is your big vision and how you see that relating to the people that you want to speak to. Then you’re going to talk about the problem in more detail. Now, I’ve done that in a series of questions; but you don’t have to use questions, you can use sentences, statements, instead.
Then we’re going into the method, how do you go about creating a result for these people; how do you work with them; what happens; and why are you the person to do that in terms of your credentials? Why you in terms of your talents, your difference, who you are as a person? Then here we go down to the call to action, ‘Ready to deal with it once and for all, drop me a message on LinkedIn today.’ So what you will find in your workbook is a series of examples of doing just that.
So your actions from this part of the session today are to review the examples in the workbook and create your first iteration. We’re not going to do it in today’s session, because it’s probably something that you want to spend around 30 minutes on your first iteration, maybe even an hour, just getting it out from your head and onto a page. Then you’re going to want to refine it and maybe share it with a few colleagues or friends to check how it sounds to them. Then you’re going to update your profile. The next section that we’re going to come to is the featured section.
As I showed you a minute ago, if you have creator mode on, this is the second thing people are going to see after your about section. If you don’t have that creator mode turned on, it’s going to be below that about you section. I want you to take a moment to think about your strategy. Job opportunities, collaborators, or partnerships with other people or organisations, or more visibility? When you think about your strategy, what kind of featured media would align to your strategy? So have that question in mind. I’m going to show you mine. Remember, I’m looking for clients on LinkedIn, it’s slightly different; but then I want you to think about, ‘With my strategy, what could I put in the featured section from my media?’ You’re going to add them to the chat box.
Let me show you what this looks like. So in my featured section, you can put PDFs, or you can link it to something. I’ve got a free calendar invitation for a 15 minute consultation where people can just click through, and I love Calendly, it’s a free app, and it checks with your calendar for conflicts and you can specify amounts of time when you’re available for these chats, you don’t have to have an open calendar. It comes in very handy when people want to book time with you, you can just send them the link. So I’ve got a free 15 minute chat. I’ve got a document that has my current list of workshops for organisations. I’ve got a post here that has been particularly well-commented on, it was my CV of failures. I’ve got some testimonials. I’ve got a video that is about me, just saying my LinkedIn headline, and then the call to action, ‘If that sounds of interest, drop me a message on LinkedIn today.’ The good thing about these are, when you edit them, you can actually change the order that they’re featured as well. You can use these buttons to put them up and down. So you can change which order they are appearing. It’s like a little showreel of highlights that you can scroll through.
So, having seen that, I want you to think for yourself now what could you add to your featured section? What media would be relevant for you with your particular strategy? If you were going for a job, for example, what things would we feature in the media section? If you were looking for collaborations, partnerships with organisations, collaborating with other academics or organisations, what would you add to the featured section? If you wanted more visibility for the work that you’re doing, what would we put in that featured section? If we were going for job opportunities, some of the things that I might add to that featured section would be maybe have the 15 minute consultation, but call it informal interview discussion, or something like that. So have that in there so people can contact you. You can always cancel them if they don’t look relevant. You can set Calendly up to ask specific questions of these people that book time with you, so if it doesn’t look relevant, then you can cancel them.
The only thing I would add is your two-page CV. So have it as a PDF so that people can actually see the whole thing for themselves. If you were going for a job opportunity, you could also highlight what you’ve done in the past that might be relevant, things like that. If you are looking for collaborators or that kind of thing, then, yes, you could do something like that; or for more visibility, the work that you’re doing. You could link to a paper that’s done particularly well for you, if you’re wanting to continue in the research space in the future.
There’s so many different things that you can do with this. Of course, you can do a video there; but you can also put a video as your cover image as well. You can have a cover video that sits on top; but it only works on mobile devices as well. That’s something to add to my list of things to do as well. So our actions are to add three to five pieces of featured media, as PDFs, links or directly from a post or article. Again, those links can be to external sites as well.
The next section that we come to on LinkedIn is the experience section. So we’re talking about work experience here, and we want to make sure that we’re not just doing a ‘This is where I worked, these are the dates that I worked,’ and then no information. You want to think of it a little bit like an extended version, almost like the ultimate version, of your CV. So we want to add some impact statements. What impact did you create in each one of those roles that you were in? There’s this great little formula that I have seen from ‘Cheeky Scientist’, which is all about people with PhDs moving beyond academia too, they’ve got some great resources.
They say you take a transferrable skill and you add the context within which you got that skill, and you add a quantifiable result, and you create an impact statement. So let’s have a look at what this might look like. I’m going to give you an example of a skill first; and then because you’ve been doing these profiling tools, I’m going to give you an example of a natural talent next. So I have the ability sometimes to be able to think on my feet. So if I was writing an impact statement, I would say, ‘I have the ability to think on my feet, which I demonstrated by facilitating nine online lunch and learn webinar-workshops for 300 plus staff in GSK’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative by responding to on the go live audience questions and providing coaching demos.’ That would be my impact statement. I’ve said what the skill is, and that could be a technical skill, this is more of a communication skill. It could be your ability to network with other people. It could be about being able to present yourself and your work. So it could be any skill, whether technical or what people call soft skills, but I think they’re more hard skills, leadership style skills. You’ll see that the thing that really sets it apart is the quantity here, making sure that we have a quantifiable in there. The next one is a natural talent. So the skill is ‘I have a natural talent for motivating and inspiring people into action.’ The context and the quantifiable result is, ‘As a result of facilitating a guide to virtual networking to over a thousand plus people, 100 per cent of participants report making changes to their LinkedIn profile that had positively improved their social selling index score.’ So these will have a real impact.
So what I want you to do from this part today is to review, go back to all the work you did on turning your tasks to skills, and looking at your skills and seeing which ones are transferrable. Look at those personality profile results for your natural talents. Review that first of all and make a list of your top five talents and see if you can weave them into impact statements underneath each of your work experiences. Read the impact statement examples in the workbook. I’ve given you some from lots of different people. Create one impact statement for each work or education experience, and add them as your highlighted skills to your LinkedIn profile, your CV, and the second paragraph of cover letters. Let me explain what that looks like now. So obviously if we were doing it in – I’ll show you LinkedIn last, if we do it on CVs, it would look like this.
You’d give a summary of the place where you’re working, and a highlighted impact statement, so it’s going to go there. You would do that under each one. When it comes to cover letters, in 2021, a study by ResumeLab showed that 83 per cent of hiring managers said cover letters were important in their hiring decision, even if they didn’t request them in the first place. They gave preference to candidates who submitted them, even if it wasn’t required; and 63 per cent of hiring managers said that they read the cover letter, which is more than half of those saying they would read it after reviewing the CV and seeing if they were qualified. So, yes, we’ve got to get through the system. We’ve got to get through if they’re using the applicant scanning systems, or whether it’s real humans scanning them, we’ve got to get the CV working.
After that, we do need to add a really impactful cover letter, whether they ask for it or not. So page one of the cover letter, use that standard business layout, date, addresses. It’s going to have three paragraphs. You’re going to address it to the correct person. You’re going to use the HR services, LinkedIn, personal contacts to find a name, who should it go to, and we’re going to keep it conversational. In the first paragraph, we want that referral. Who did you know at that organisation that said this would be a great fit for you? We want the elevator pitch, why do you want the role? In paragraph two, this is where we put the impact statements. So we say why are you a match for that role, and we’re going to answer that by showing your ethos and two to three impact statements. Even if they are highlighted in your CV, you can add them here as well. Paragraph three is why are you a match for the organisation? You need to look at the values and the vision of that organisation. How do you see yourself aligning to that? There needs to be a match and we need to make sure of that before you move to another place of work, because you might get there and find that it’s a culture shock for you. So do check that you are onboard with their values and vision as well.
Does anyone have any questions for me about impact statements? Come off mute or drop them in the chat box and I’ll show you where to put them here. So here, you’ll see that I’ve got a little bit of information about working on the Prosper Project. When the Prosper Project finishes, I’m going to add an impact statement underneath there as well. So you can have things that are long; you can have things that are short; but make sure that you weave some impact statements into the experience section.
We’re going to move on because all-star profiles are not just about these top sections, there are some really important sections underneath that are going to help you out. So when we come to education, if you have now a degree and something beyond a degree, like a masters, PhD, we no longer need to include in that education section GCSEs, A Levels, or the equivalent if you have come from overseas. It’s just no longer necessary, because you have the credentials above, so just put those ones in. When it comes to licenses and certificates, if you are licensed or you have been certificated by a particular organisation that’s going to be relevant to your strategy, then you can put them in there. The section that I really like, if you’ve got some examples, is the volunteering section. This is a super excellent way to showcase skills that you may not have in a workplace setting, but you do have in a volunteering setting. Often this is where people get their opportunity to showcase leadership skills, having taken projects from start to finish, all kinds of things that you can demonstrate here. Again, you can give people a little bit of information about your role and information about how to find out more about that organisation. I really like adding volunteer experiences, and this could be anything from outside of work, all the way to doing outreach events in universities, or anything else that you do. We don’t worry about skills or endorsements on LinkedIn.
I know that sounds a little bit crazy; but it doesn’t matter if 25 people have endorsed me for chemistry. It doesn’t matter. I got a first-class degree and masters and a PhD in chemistry, nobody needs to endorse me for it. What does matter are recommendations on LinkedIn. Let me tell you why. When you send in your CV, your cover letter, don’t think that that’s the only information that they’re going to be looking at. We now are in the digital age and people are going to go and type your name in Google and you are what Google says you are. LinkedIn is one of those things that comes right up to the top of search results.
If you land on someone’s LinkedIn profile and it’s a dusty old CV, you see a dusty old CV. If you land on someone’s LinkedIn profile and it’s all-star, all singing and dancing, it really speaks to the opportunity you’re looking for, and a number of people have recommended them, and you can click through and go, ‘This person is this person and they have legitimate credentials and experience too,’ it goes an awful long way. So I find that the best way to get testimonials, if you want to add these to your profile, is to give. I always like a giving mindset. So go ahead and think about five to ten people you’ve worked alongside, or mentored, whatever the experience is, and go ahead and give. Give a recommendation to them and make their day. What you will find is, in return, they will probably write a recommendation for you too.
If that doesn’t happen, collect recommendations every time you move through a position and go forwards again; or every time you work with someone and they’ve moved forwards, ask, because if you don’t ask, you’re not going to get. That’s what my mum always used to say. So if you want to give a recommendation, let’s just give that example again, all you have to do is click on the person and click more, and then you either request a recommendation, but I would ask the person first, or you recommend. Once you click recommend, you have to select the relationship, and your position at the time, and then you write your recommendation. When you click send, that recommendation goes to their inbox, and they get two options, they either accept it as it is and it goes on their profile, or they can request a revision. If someone sends you one and you think, ‘If they’d just said this a little bit differently, it would be so much better,’ ask them for a revision, it goes back, they send it back, and then you click and accept it on your profile, and then it is there for everybody to see. Okay, we are motoring on because right at the bottom of the profile, underneath the recommendations, which are going to make a huge difference to your profile, are these extra sections.
Now, there’s a number of different things you can add here. I’ve got publications. So I’ve got coaching style, trainer style publications here; and I’ve got all the things that I did then, as a scientist, down here. That, again, shows my background; but it also shows that I’m still publishing in my new positions as well. The other things that you can add there that I think adds real credibility, if you have them, you have to add sections as well, you can add awards, if you’ve been lucky enough to have got an award.
You can add languages that you speak, which I think is an excellent thing to add if you’re fluent in other languages. You can add training that you have acquired as well along the way. You can use it like a training CPD record as well. So I have opted not to do that, I’ve just got publications; but you can add all of those extra sections in there as well.
There’s a little summary of everything that we’ve done to make your profile all-star. So the actions from this part are to add relevant sections; complete the details of the relevant sections; give five to ten recommendations and collect recommendations throughout your career. It will set you apart from everybody else. I want you to, in all of this, not forget the most important part, which are your 15 minutes of actions. They used to call them daily actions, but then people said, ‘I’m not going to do it daily,’ so I just call them under 15 minute micro actions, whether that’s daily, twice-weekly, weekly, expand your network of ten relevant people. Increase the interconnectivity, the dynamism of your network, by commenting on five posts. Get visible.
You will get visible by commenting on others’ posts; but share posts with your own thought leadership. That at first can look like sharing an article that you read, sharing an article that you have produced, sharing something in the media that you’ve read that you think might be relevant for others; but remember to include your own quotes, or your own comments on it, because just simply having an opinion is thought leadership in its action.
People often ask me about LinkedIn Premium, do I need LinkedIn Premium to make this work? No, you can do absolutely everything without LinkedIn Premium. I did all of what we’ve talked about for the first 18 months without LinkedIn Premium. You don’t need it. The only thing that I think that it does do is it allows you to do this faster, because you can connect with more people in one go, so you can make more connection requests. You can also connect with people who are second degree or even third degree connections with little messages. It makes anything that you do more visible. So it will prioritise LinkedIn Premium people above those that are not when it comes to commenting on posts, and sharing posts as well. I think it does a really excellent job of doing that. If you do want to use LinkedIn Premium, which you might want to do when you’re job searching, is use the one-month trial free first of all, if you want to activate that. This, of course, is correct at the time of recording, it may be different after the time of recording. Then if you decline to continue, they will offer you three months half price. Again, that’s correct at the time of publishing. It works out, at full price, around £750 per year.
As someone who has invested in LinkedIn as a primary platform for my professional, personal branding and positioning, I am willing to pay that for that; but it’s not going to be for everyone, and nor do you need it to make this work as well. It’s just an added, let’s say, accelerant, a bit like the fire has already been created and we’re just adding fuel to that fire, in a good way. I want you to search for evidence that this is working for you. The way in which you’ll see if this is all working is you will get inbound enquiries. You will start to see that people are reaching out for you. You might find, particularly if you’re open to work, or even if you’re not, that recruiters start to contact you.
Instead of the positions that they contact you about being wildly off-kilter or about what you used to do in the past rather than what you want to do in the future, you’ll start to see that they’re contacting you about genuine matches that you are interested in. Don’t forget that recruiters, even if you’re not looking for a job, are excellent people to connect with on LinkedIn, because they have huge networks. So if you find someone who is recruiting in the space in which you’re interested in, they are going to be really well-connected people. So connect with them anyway, that needs to be a category of people that you connect with beyond your ideal people. You’ll see an increase in the number of notifications for you to look at; and you’ll also be able to track analytics. You’ll see an increase in followers and connections. So what we say here is in the activity section you’ll start to see that this number of followers increases, or it will say connections if you are not using creator mode, and you’ll also start to see these analytics start to increase as well. So the number of people viewing your profile, the number of posts, and that’s your last seven days, and how often you’re appearing in search results.
These are good things to start to track and take note of, as well as the number of followers, because that’s really showing how many people are in your network; but this is showing how engaged you are with your network as well. So our summary overall of the actions to take from today’s session, I’m hoping you’ve now all got a personalised URL, because we could do that at the time. You’ve all committed to one hour in the next week to write your first iteration of your about section. Do get people to look at it, you might want to share it within the Prosper groups to get some cross-pollination and feedback from people, and there are loads of examples in your workbooks.
I want you to add three to five PDFs or links that are relevant to your strategy to your featured media section. You’re going to add impact statements to your experience and qualification sections, as well as your CVs and cover letters, when that’s relevant. You’re going to give five to ten recommendations, and collect recommendations throughout your career. Add other interesting sections, like volunteer experience, publications, awards, languages, and any other sections that are relevant to you.
Don’t forget your 15 minutes of actions to connect, engage and post; and track for evidence that it’s working for you, because it will and it will futureproof your whole career having professional positioning and a personal brand that evolves as you evolve over time, that changes strategy when you need to change strategy, and will be there for you if something looks wobbly in your career, your network is that emergency pillar that comes in and shores up things for you.
So never underestimate how much network and positioning and personal brand is for you. It’s going to change everything, and I can’t wait to see what happens as a result.
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