Ever watch a speaker go way to long talking about a certain topic? You know, the kind that has you looking at your watch wishing you were at the dentist. According to TED.com, it is proven scientifically that the ultimate length of time for the most memorable and impactful speeches is just 18 minutes. Bad speakers spend the first 10 minutes telling you about themselves instead of using that time to grab your attention on their topic.
Great speakers will instantly connect with you which causes you to naturally enjoy listening because they are interesting, emotional and have a message that gets you thinking.
Believe it or not, getting a job in the insurance industry is very similar. You must be able to communicate with employers very quickly to be considered for the best positions. Do cover letters hold the secret to you getting noticed? Do employers even read them anymore? Hopefully, we can answer some of these questions.
Large companies almost all use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that make you create an account, upload a resume and answer a bunch of questions before you can even apply for a job. Once you establish an account with that company, you can apply to any job on their site if you are logged in. In about 50% of these ATS applications, you will have a place to write a cover letter. The big mystery is will a human ever read it! I certainly recommend filling this out for the keywords and in the event someone in the recruiting department is manually working the ATS.
Smaller insurance companies (like independent claims groups, insurance agencies, third party administrators and brokers) are great because you get to apply directly. You will know this because you will be using an email or a very easy to use job board application (like GreatInsuranceJobs.com). Typically, your resume goes directly to the first line of hiring.
In either case, this is what you should include in your cover letter to make it TED.com like! Before you start writing the letter, gather this information:
- Read the job description and identify the top three requirements needed to get the job. This is very important. For this example, the company is looking for a property claims adjuster handling large property claims.
- Try to identify who you will reading your cover letter and resume. If you were referred to the job, make sure you mention that person. (In this example, Sandra is the claims manager of the company and you can usually find that out by calling the company or using sites like LinkedIn.
Now, begin the process of writing a great cover letter. Keep it short and to the point.
I saw the posting for the property claims adjuster position on the XYZ website and would be very interested in this position.
For the last 10 years, I have worked a caseload of property claims with average size of my claims right at $500,000 but handle claims up to two million. I have been able to close 87.8% of these claims myself earning me the top spot in my office.
I am open for interviewing starting on 3/12. I am really excited about the opportunity to work at XYZ Company in the future. I have only heard great things!
Bob Claims Adjuster
That is all you need. It gets right to the point of letting the employer know in two sentences that he has ten years’ experience, handles exactly what they are looking for (top 3 job requirements) and asks for a call to action and a quick compliment.
Even with this information, I still read so many cover letters that make these mistakes:
- Tell the employer you are a “great fit” for the position. Employers hate this.
- Misspellings and poor grammar.
- Using the same cover letter for every company and forgetting to change the name.
- Making it too long that is just becomes a repeat of the resume.
- Rambling with words like team player, compassionate, hard worker and seasoned.
Finally, since most application are now done via a computer, you have to determine how you want to present your cover letter. For large companies with ATS’s, you will have no choice but to use the space they give you to add this cover letter (if even available).
When applying directly, I personally like the cover letter being the body of the email with the resume attached. However, some people like to have the cover letter as a document and attach both the resume and cover letter at the same time. If you do it this way I can tell you as a hiring manager, your resume will be opened up first and they will only open your cover letter if they like your resume. For some, a great cover letter can really help a resume look even better!