Going from business owner to employee means that you will have to be on the other side of the hiring process. You may not care about what people put in their cover letter, but other people will. Fitting your entrepreneurial or business owner experience into that picture can be tricky. Here is what you need to know to build an effective cover letter to go from entrepreneur to employee.
What Goes in the Cover Letter
A cover letter should tell your story. It should be no more than 1 page and it needs to convey the talking points to convince the person skimming it that you are worth interviewing. This can be a strategic place to answer some obvious questions and to engage the person in why you are a good fit.
The cover letter is not the place where you repeat the details found in your resume. Instead, this is where you tell the story behind the resume and why you want to make this change. Treat the cover letter more like a written interview to provide the person skimming it a glimpse into who you are and what you would say in the interview. Making this change in how you write the cover letter will enable you to spend less time on each one and to better prepare for your interviews.
Tell Your Story
Telling your entrepreneurial story can be challenging when it isn't favorable or relevant to what you want to do next. Instead, focus on what is relevant to the company that you are now applying to. This will enable you to focus your energy on what you are good at and enable you to stay positive.
The cover letter is also not your life story. Instead, you are using the cover letter to connect the dots between your role as a business owner and the position that you are now applying to. Make it easy for the person skimming (and skimming quickly) to see how you meet their needs and why you want the job.
This is a high-level story about why you are making the change and what your strengths are. You can deepen that message by incorporating examples or details from your resume on the cover letter. But, do not get stuck in the weeds. Instead, keep the cover letter forward-looking.
Address the Obvious
A smart entrepreneur will use the cover letter to answer some of the obvious questions from the recruiter or hiring manager. Doing this will enable you to address any red flags that may be raised about you in making the shift from owner to employee. Being proactive on the cover letter to acknowledge and address these items also enables you to showcase the skills that you may have already articulated on the resume.
Remember, that people will want to know the details about your experience and they will be looking at them from every angle to assess if you are a good fit for their open role. Thus, take initiative and address those items before they are asked in a way that creates a positive talking point for the interview whenever possible.
Connect Your Entrepreneur Experience to the Job
People don't read cover letters as much as they used to. But, when someone takes the time to look at a cover letter, they want to know why. Why are you interested in this job? Why do you want this job? And, why do you think you are a good fit?
So, make the person's job easy who is scanning your cover letter. The cover letter will go in a different place and isn't typically parsed for keywords by the applicant tracking system. But, people will be skimming it for some of the same concepts. So, layout the information in a way that positions you well for the role.
Be clear about what you did as a business owner and how that makes you a strong candidate for the open job. Explain how those skills as an entrepreneur will serve the company well and how that can make you a stronger fit for the role. Don't presume that people know anything about you or what your company does. Instead, be clear and lay this information out with plain language on your cover letter and on your executive resume.
Focus on Your Audience
Finally, and most importantly, make sure that you are focusing your cover letter on the person that will actually be skimming it. People would expect that a business owner will know how to tailor their cover letter for different jobs and companies. So, you shouldn't use the same cover letter for every single job at every company.
Instead, adapt that message to the particular company or job. Acknowledge your connections to the company or its product lines. Explain why you want the job and why you think that your executive experience will translate well to a corporate environment. Be clear on the cover letter what you are looking for when making this move and always try to come from a positive angle whenever possible.
Frame your cover letter toward the future by using examples about what you have done in your business and connect that to what you can do at their organization. Doing this will show that you aren't stuck or forced to find a job. Instead, it shows that you have done a lot and that you want to make this move because it is a smart move for both you and the company.
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