Many job candidates focus all their energy on their resume and don’t take the time to learn how to write a cover letter.
However, if you write a weak cover letter or none at all, your well-crafted resume may never get seen. On the other hand, a great cover letter sets you apart and demands attention. Ninety-one percent of executives polled by Robert Half said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates. Here are some tips to get you started.
Address the cover letter directly to the hiring manager to show you did your research; don’t use a generic introduction such as “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.” If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, call the company to find out. Also, use a colon in the salutation to keep it formal.
The first paragraph
Reveal your reason for writing in the introductory paragraph. State the name of the position you’re applying for and if someone referred you. A familiar name can create a bond with the reader from the start. You can also try to hook the reader in this paragraph by offering her a compelling reason to continue reading, such as including a tidbit about the company or a preview of your qualifications.
The body paragraph(s)
Sell yourself to your potential employer in the next one or two body paragraphs. First, state why you’re ideal for the position. While some of this information will be detailed on your resume, use a more conversational style here and try to expand on what your resume says. Try to use exact wording from the job description when describing your skills and experience. Why? Computer programs often scan cover letters for key words used in the job description or job posting. Managers reviewing resumes also look for those key phrases.
Be sure to research the firm so you can explain how your skills and background are ideal for the organization. Remember: Keep your message focused on what you can do for the company, not what it can do for you.
Mention how and when you plan to follow up, and tell the potential employer you’re interested in continuing the conversation about the position. Thank the reader for her time, and include a standard closing that you’d find in a business letter.
What information do you think is most important in a cover letter? Let us know in the comments section.
Writing Cover Letters is Key