Most job hunters will plug away at their resume, but treat the cover letter as an afterthought, if they bother to send one at all. The cover letter is a powerful tool in the job-hunting process and should not be forgotten. When an employer is narrowing down their selection of potential employees and trying to decide between several qualified resumes, the cover letter may just be the deciding factor.
Your cover letter should clearly link your qualifications to the position and make it obvious that you are a good match. A personalized cover letter will demonstrate that you are sincere because you took the time to research and learn about the organization and the position. It will also give the reader a glimpse into your personality, something a resume may not do. Most importantly, the cover letter is another opportunity to get your key message out and “sell yourself.”
What are the elements of an effective cover letter?
The cover letter, like the resume, should be used to position you. It should influence what the reader notices in your resume. Your cover letter focuses your pitch more precisely than your resume does and you can pitch to a very precise segment of the market. When thinking about your pitch, keep in mind: to whom you are pitching, what they are interested in, who your likely competitors are, and what you offer that your competitors do not.
The cover letter should be no longer than one page. The format is this:
Paragraph 1 is the opening; the grabber. Start with the point of greatest interest to your target market. This is the equivalent of a headline in an ad. For example, start this paragraph with your background or a statement that shows you understand the problems faced by the industry.
Paragraph 2 is a summary of your background aimed at a target. Include a few examples of your past experience that directly tie your qualifications to the requirements of the job.
Paragraph 3 contains your bulleted key accomplishments that would be of interest to your target market. These can be written in a bulleted or paragraph format. Make them lively and interesting.
Paragraph 4 (optional) contains additional information and could include references to your education or personality, or other relevant information.
Final paragraph – The close. For example: “I would prefer working in a environment where my leadership and problem-solving abilities are needed and would be pleased to meet with you to discuss the contribution I could make to your organization.
Thank the reader for considering a meeting with you. If you plan to follow-up, let the reader know how and when you will be making contact. Then do it!
Note: If you are sending a cover letter electronically, use it as your e-mail message and keep it shorter than a hard copy cover letter. Do not send a cover letter as an attachment. It may never get opened.
Keep in mind that the cover letter is an essential component in selling yourself. Take the time to do research and write a persuasive letter. It just may be your “foot in the door.”
By: Rose Opengart, Interviews That Work
© 2018, Rose Opengart, Interviews That Work