How to Write a Cover Letter That Will Catch Employers' Attention
Job seekers often ask me how to write a cover letter so magical that it is guaranteed to land them their dream jobs. I regret to inform everyone that there is no GUARANTEED cover letter. However, I can show you how to write a cover letter that will give you a better shot at capturing that all-important job interview. Once you have the interview, it's up to you to sell yourself to the person doing the hiring. The right cover letter will give the hiring manager the right attitude and even make him/her excited to meet you. The key is your approach to the letter.
Job-hunting is probably the hardest sales job imaginable for the non-salesperson attempting to sell himself. The job hunter needs every possible tool available to help land the interview and make the sale (get the job). The cover letter is usually what first introduces the hiring manager to the applicant. It will establish the hiring manager's first impression of the applicant. People don't often get a second chance to make a first impression. If you are struggling with how to write a cover letter that will leave employers begging to learn more about you, read on!
Do Your HomeworkLearn as much as you possibly can about the available position, the real needs of the department for which you are applying, and the company in general. The Internet is a good place to find valuable information about most medium to large companies. Many companies will have "About Us" sections on their website that are full of useful information for the job searcher. Ideally, you want to find a problem or challenge the employer has for which you can be the solution. Calling the hiring manager and introducing yourself is crucial. This creates name recognition with the hiring manager and gives you the perfect opportunity to learn what the department is REALLY looking for in the next employee. Be polite, professional, and brief. Use the information obtained to establish yourself as the obvious person to be interviewed and eventually hired.
How to Write a Cover Letter: Be ProfessionalUltimately, what you are writing is a business letter, and it's necessary to format your cover letter that way. Begin with your contact information: name, address, phone numbers, and e-mail address along with any other appropriate contact data. Next, date the letter to help you and the recipient: this helps you keep up with when the letter should have been received and when it will be appropriate to place a follow-up phone call. It's always best to address the cover letter to the person (with title) with whom you spoke. The job posting or ad should list a position or name that your resume should be addressed to, such as Mr. Smith, Human Resources Department; Human Resources; Manager of Accounting, etc. Make sure this information is correct. It doesn't do any good to have a great cover letter and resume lost and floating around a large company. Finally, if you have the recipient's full name, USE IT in the greeting.
How to Write a Cover Letter: Opening ParagraphIn the opening paragraph, you will want to introduce yourself by name and give the position for which you are applying. If you made phone contact, this is the place to remind the recipient of when and briefly explain what was discussed during that call. If you were referred or recommended by someone, include that information as well. Also, include where you learned of the position: newspaper ad, job board on a particular website, friend, etc.
Example: My name is Tom Bennett. Thank you for your time on January 3, 2011. I enjoyed our phone conversation and learned a lot about your company and its needs for the future. I am applying for the Senior Account Manager position and am excited by the growth of your department and the new product lines you will be representing. I originally heard of your company's needs from Bill Thompson at Acme Industrials who thought your company and I would be a great match.
How to Write a Cover Letter: The Body of Your Cover LetterNow is the time to use your research skills to establish your knowledge of the company or department as well as why you are the best person to fill their needs. Be positive. Point to particular items on your resume for support, but don't become caught up in addressing the entire resume. Be brief and refer the reader to the resume for further information. Establish that you understand the position they are in and that you understand what it is going to take to solve their problems and be a driving force for their future. Briefly discuss what in your job history and education positions you to step right in. Include specific training, certifications, and licenses you possess that will assure the reader that you have what it takes to solve their problems.
Example: As you requested, I am enclosing a listing of the product lines I have represented with previous employers. I think you will find it's a close match to the new areas into which you are entering. My resume will demonstrate the steady growth my career has taken over the last twenty years, beginning as a field rep and working my way through every level of the business until reaching account manager. In my previous position, I managed an 8-person sales force representing more than three hundred accounts. I look forward to the possibility of working within your organization. A complete listing of my certifications and association memberships, including offices held, is on my resume.
How to Write a Cover Letter: Closing ParagraphTime to wrap it up. Ask for action: request an interview at their earliest convenience. Tell them you will call in a few days to answer any questions they may have. Include your contact information even if it is at the top of the cover letter. Thank them for their time and considerations. Let them know that you are looking forward to further contact.
Example: I would appreciate getting together with you in person to discuss this position further at your earliest convenience. I believe my skills and experience will be a great fit for your company. Thank you for the opportunity to send my resume, which is enclosed. I will contact you by phone and/or e-mail in a few days in case you have any questions. You may contact me anytime at (XXX) VVV-VVVV or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Print your name and sign the letter. If you are sending it through the mail, include a list of enclosed documents.
You cover letter should tell the person who reads it that you are serious about working for their company, you understand what their problems are, and that you are the solution to those problems. Be courteous and confident—not arrogant. If you say you will contact them in a few days, make sure you do it. Don't promise to do anything that you can't or won't do. The reader will assume that if you don't follow through on cover letter promises, you won't follow through on the job either.
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