Most job seekers understand the value and importance of a well-organized resume but spend far less energy on crafting a strong cover letter. What they fail to realize is that resumes and cover letters go hand-in-hand. Employers are very busy and receive hundreds of resumes leaving little time for individual review. Submitting a thoughtful and well-written cover letter can help you outshine your competition and get you one step closer to an interview. Don’t let the energy you’ve spent on developing the perfect resume go to waste by failing to deliver an effective cover letter. Here we offer some tips to help you craft the perfect cover letter that will get you noticed:
1. Understand what the Cover Letter Must Achieve
A cover letter is
basically a sales letter. You are trying to motivate a specific action -
an invitation for an interview. In addition to reinforcing the key
skills and experience you reference in your resume, a cover letter
provides you with the opportunity to:
- demonstrate your desire to work for the employer
- identify specific ways your expertise can benefit the organization
differentiate yourself from other job seekers
demonstrate your individual personality
explain anomalies that may stand out in a resume such as gaps in
arouse interest that will help you get that interview.
2. Know Your Stuff
Avoid using generic or
mass produced cover letters. Each cover letter should be customized for
each individual employer and include a statement about why you are
attracted to the position and company.
Before you begin writing your letter, learn as much as you can about the
potential employer. The more you know about an organization, the better
you can tailor your cover letter to the firm's needs. Visit the firm's
website and scan industry publications so you are up to speed on recent
news about the company.
Remember, you want to express what you can do for the employer, not what
they can do for you. A cover letter must highlight aspects of your
experience that are most useful to the potential employer, and you can
earn points for knowing what those aspects are.
3. Make it Personal
Often times a job
listing does not include the name of the hiring manager. Never begin a
cover letter with "to whom it may concern" or “dear hiring manager.” A
generic salutation often signals to potential employers that you lack
the initiative to locate the appropriate contact.
Instead, call the company directly and explain the position you are
applying for to see if you can fill in the blank or take time to
research on the internet or in appropriate business periodicals to get
the name and title of the hiring official.
4. Be Strong, Confident and Professional
A good cover letter
begins with a powerful, clearly written opening paragraph. Your goal is
to briefly describe how you heard about the position and why you're
interested in it. If you're replying to an advertisement mentioning a
code or job number, refer to this in your cover letter as well as any
information specifically requested in the ad that may not be addressed
in your resume such as an availability date or a writing sample.
Your tone should be confident without being arrogant. Avoid attempts to
be "cute" or "catchy" in your opening. Gimmicky attempts to gain
attention can appear insincere. It is best to keep your letter polished
and professional as well as interesting and visually appealing. Mention
only positive things and be formal, yet friendly and open.
5. Highlight what is Most Relevant
A cover letter should
be brief and to the point. It should be no longer than one page -
perhaps 3 or 4 paragraphs - and should include your signature.
Recruiters are pressed for time and often only have time to skim through
applications. Use statistics, highlighted statements, or bullets to
make sure that vital information can be easily spotted.
Make sure that the messaging in your letter is consistent with the
information included in your resume. Your cover letter should not be a
laundry list of items from your resume. Instead, highlight skills and
experiences that are most relevant to the job opening and provide
concrete examples of the skills, training, and/or experiences that are
the basis for your confidence.
6. Check Grammar and Spelling
grammatical error on your part can call your professionalism and
attention to detail into question thereby discouraging a hiring manager
from contacting you for an interview. Always spell-check your document
and ask friends and family members to proof read your letter before
sending it to any potential employer.
7. Follow Up
In addition to
expressing gratitude for the hiring manager's time and interest, close
your letter by outlining your next steps. Be proactive by stating when
you will contact him or her to follow up. And don't forget to include a
phone number or e-mail address where you can be reached in case the firm
wants to get in touch with you first.
Be sure to follow up with the employer via phone or email in 2-3 weeks
if you have not heard from them. In your follow-up email, reiterate your
interest in the position, ask about the status of your application and
ask if they need any further information from you.