A clean, clear resume is important, but a great cover letter is even more important. That’s because a resume is basically just a summary, and it shows off very little of who you really are. The cover letter, on the other hand, captures your own voice and provides your first chance to make your pitch as a candidate. If you’re ready to start writing cover letters that command attention from hiring managers, follow these tips.
Before You Start Writing
- Review Your Purpose – There is a lot of confusion about what exactly a cover letter is meant to do. In all cases, it should introduce you as a candidate, connect your qualifications to the requirements of the position, and pique interest in your resume.
- Connect the Dots – The key in any cover letter is convincing the hiring manager that the skills you have align perfectly with the skill they want. Read through the job description and pick out the exact qualifications and attributes they describe. Then scour your own history for jobs, classes, volunteer opportunities, and personal initiatives that demonstrate those.
- Research the Company – Every cover letter must be tailored for the company receiving it. That means you need to research the company closely. What kinds of successes and failure have they had recently? Why are they hiring staff? What kind of plans do they have for the future? Use this information to highlight how you can add unique value.
While You Are Writing
- Start and Finish Strong – Always address your cover letter to a specific person. If one is not listed in the job description, call and inquire. Then finish your letter with a strong call to action expressing your desire to set up an interview.
- Use Keywords – The job description was probably filled with keywords – managed, increase, strategic etc. Pull out those keywords and any industry jargon mentioned, and use them in your own cover letter. The clear parallel between the two helps establish you as qualified.
- Don’t Oversell – You want to come off as competent and capable, but you don’t want to come off as cocky. As you are listing your accomplishments, make sure you don’t inflate or exaggerate them, and keep your tone modestly professional throughout. Try to keep the focus on what you can provide, rather than on what you have already done.
- Avoid Generic Phrases – Most cover letters read exactly the same. Make yours stand out by cutting out any generic words, phrases, or ideas. Have a friend or career coach read over the letter to help you improve the language. Remember that your cover letter is a clear example of your communication skills, so you want it to read as well as possible.
Writing a great cover letter is an important step in the process, but just one of many. Find resources to help you throughout your job search by working with Selectek.