Many people underestimate the power of a good Cover Letter. Many hiring managers and recruiters won’t even consider you unless you submit one with your resume. Here’s a good way to get started.
The cover letter is an important part of your job search campaign. Truth be told, many employers will not even look at your resume if you do not have a cover letter attached. You can also strike out if your cover letter is poorly written or hard to understand.
If your cover letter is not read, chances are your resume won’t get read either. It’s hard to get an interview when no one reads your resume. Therefore, give the same careful consideration and attention to the preparation of cover letters as you gave to your resume.
There are two types of cover letters you might use in your job search:
Letter of Application or Response to an Advertisement: This type of letter is used when you are responding to a specific advertised job opening. You should show how your skills and qualifications fit the requirements of the position.
Letter of Inquiry: This type of letter is used when you are contacting an individual or organization to ask about possible openings. You should focus on broader occupational or organizational requirements to demonstrate how your qualifications match the work environment or how your skills can help the company meet its needs.
Whichever type of cover letter you send, it will say a lot about you as a professional and as a prospective employee. Your cover letter should be a clear demonstration of your written communication skills and relevant industry experience, as well as your ability to convince and persuade the reader that you would be an asset to the organization.
This means you’ll have to prepare a new letter for each company. Research the particular needs and requirements of the organization and position for which you are applying.
You must compose a letter that communicates your value in a concise and professional manner. The cover letter guidelines and sample paragraphs that follow should help you achieve these goals.
General Guidelines and Suggestions for Preparing Cover Letters
- Write clearly and simply. Keep it simple and avoid jargon. Keep it short and sweet by saying what you have to say directly. Don’t go over one page if possible.
- Keep it brief. A one-page letter comprising three to four paragraphs should suffice. Your cover letter should never be more than one page long.
- Show what you can do for the reader, not what you want the reader to do for you. Keep the focus on your qualifications as they relate to the position you are seeking.
- Make mention of one or two specific accomplishments or strengths. Demonstrate your expertise or proficiency and make the reader want to know more about you, then refer the reader to your resume for more information. It’s important to not only mention what you have done in the past, but will you will be able to do in the future for them.
- Make sure your letters and emails are easy to read. Keep to the point but demonstrate that you have sound business-writing principles in your communications. You want the messaging to come across in an active voice.
- Compose high quality, error-free copy. Be sure to proofread your cover letter carefully. Use the same font and pitch used in your resume, and make your letter look as much like your resume as possible. Don’t forget to spell-check your cover letter. This is an important step, because even the slight error or misspelling can take you out of consideration for the job.
- Whenever possible, address your letter to a specific person and include their title, if known. If you don’t have a name but do know the company, call the main switchboard or human resources department and ask for the name of the human resources manager, the name of the person handling the opening, or the person in charge of the department where the position will be located. If you can’t find a name, go to the “careers” section of the company’s website or Linked In, you should be able to get the name of the human resources or recruiting person. It’s not advisable to use a generic salutation like “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.” It’s too informal for the reader.
- Use high-quality stationary and envelopes. Use the same paper as your resume and purchase matching envelopes.
- Be honest. You should be able to back up what you say with evidence and specific examples from your experience.
- Be positive in your tone, attitude, choice of words and expectations. Convey your self-confidence, enthusiasm, and professionalism.
- Be sure to sign your letter using your full name as typed. Use a high-quality pen with black or blue ink, and be sure your signature is legible.
- Close by stating what action you will be taking as a follow-up to your letter. This takes the burden off the reader and also gives you more control over the process.
- Tell your story. What peaked your interest about this company? Was there something that you remembered about this company that made you remember it? Did you buy a product from this company that was memorable that inspired you or changed your life? Tell a story about your experiences with the company, people or products either as a consumer or in a business related setting. Try to keep it short and sweet.
- Don’t have a lot of experience? In cases where new graduates with little or no experience apply, they focus on their educational background, achievements or academic accolades. It’s better to focus on your work experience if any instead of the educational experience. Even if it’s minimal, start with your work experience first.
- Use some impressive numbers. Hiring managers love to see statistics, data, metrics that help their company improve market position. Offer some stats to illustrate your knowledge, and the impact you could make if hired. It shows them that you have a firm understanding about their company and the industry as a whole.
- Use a testimonial. You can use a quote or testimonial from a former employer, client, or even co-worker. For example: “Ken is a top-notch analyst that goes above and beyond when it comes to developing reports and organizing teams”. A brief paragraph toward the end of your cover letter should do.
- Stand out from the crowd. When you’re writing, you should think about how to connect with the hiring manager. A good way to do this is to throw out conventional thinking, and be bold and exciting. Hiring managers remember cover letters that were thought provoking and adding some interesting tidbits about the candidate.