Your 5 Minute Cover Letter Hack: Mine the Web

Your Cover Letter Can Improve Immediately With This 5 Minute Hack.

Think of all the cover letters your target company receives and how important it is to make your letter stand out. Consider, too, the competition you face when interviewing and how critical it is to be a well-informed candidate. Below is an outline of a fast method to gather Intelligence from the Web showing you where and how to find substantive information online to incorporate into your cover letter and your interview discussions, and which powerful websites to mine for information to demonstrate your research skills and initiative.

 

Distinguish your cover letter from your competitors’ letters by weaving in insightful background information about the company you’re targeting.  Several websites offer research and data that are easily accessible and free of charge:

  • Slideshare offers (Powerpoint) slide decks that professionals have used at industry conferences, analyst meetings, etc. meant for public consumption. The site contains a wealth of data and information about products and services, business trends and subsidiary businesses your target company deals in.
  • Google search within Slideshare leads you to company data and presentations previously inaccessible.   LinkedIn bought Slideshare, so now you will often find slide decks incorporated in personal Profiles on LinkedIn.
    • Example: Oracle. A search finds a recent presentation with rich data on a new product by a VP explaining the market sector and how Oracle hopes to capture market share.
  • LinkedIn’s Company page aggregates insightful statistics about employees, their job functions, years of experience, locations, etc. This arms you with a sense of what type of candidate your target company might hire or need.
  • Google News tracks news items and data related to a company’s products and services or how it’s performing according to analysts, experts or customers. You can set Alerts to request news by category or specific company and compile the information to use when you’re called in for an interview.
  • Compete.com shows a company’s business trajectory over time based on website visitor traffic. You get a sense, for example, of a company’s popularity with customers at given times.   And you can also track competitive companies.
  • Google Finance finds information about competitor companies, helping you compare your target company to the competition. Use this information to express why you’d want to work for your target company over one of its competitors.
  • EDGAR SEC Filings by public companies on their financial condition and outlook. For example, one very useful category of required information on the Income Statement is R&D as a percentage of total Cost of Revenue. Another interesting section of filing docs is information about Risk Factors, which often suggest areas where the company needs help. Facebook, you will learn, in its most recent quarter had more revenue outside than inside the U.S., had more than 25% of Cost of Revenue in R&D, and considers its position as being entirely dependent on advertising to be its primary Risk Factor.
  • Archive.org compiles data related to your target company’s history over time, how it has performed or positioned itself, etc. Draw on this research for interesting discussion points in your interview or for insightful approaches in your cover letter.

To get useful company information fast, use these four steps:

  1. Select a few target companies.
  2. Log onto Slideshare.net and glean all the information you can. Explore further using Google within Slideshare (within the search box on Slideshare, type in ‘site:slideshare.net’ followed by a space and then a company name – e.g., ‘site:slideshare.net oracle’) to uncover even richer background material.
  3. Go to LinkedIn and click on the Interest tab and then take the Companies option in the drop down menu. Search for data about your target company, its employees and their experience, work locations, etc.
  4. Access news.google.com. Type in your target company name. Set up your own “personalized dashboard” by going to the ‘Personalize Google News’ menu on the right side of the page.

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