Many job applicants think a cover letter is so “last century.” Not true. Unless a job posting specifically says “no cover letter necessary,” you will need to create one to go along with your submitted resume. And if you think that you can create a generic cover letter for all of your resumes, think again. Each one you craft will need to be targeted for the job you are seeking.
What a Cover Letter Can Do for You
Think of your cover letter as the introduction to an essay. It introduces the reader to the thesis of the essay – the points that will be made in what follows. Your cover letter must do the same thing – you have to introduce the resume reader to you.
And, like an introduction, you have to grab the attention of the reader quickly. If you do, that reader will be motivated to spend more time on your resume, rather than the 6-8 seconds most resumes get.
Tips for a Killer Cover Letter
As you create your cover letter, be certain that you incorporate the following:
Focus on what you bring to the organization. Speak to the skills and abilities that are in the job posting, and how you can meet those needs. Do not focus on yourself.
Of course, you want to read the job description several times and highlight those keywords that you will include in your letter. Beyond that, however, you need to research the company or organization. Pull up its website and read everything. Check out any photos of the staff. Read the mission statement several times.
Check out the managers and supervisors. Look them up on LinkedIn – try to figure out who your supervisor or manager will be. Read about that person and see if there are any terms you can put into your cover letter.
Be brief. Your cover letter should have three sections.
1. The first section, the opening paragraph specifies the position you are applying for and be sure to state the exact position title/name from the job posting.
Explain why you are applying for this job. For example, you might say, “Because of my 3 years of experience in network administration, I can offer the solutions you are looking for.
If someone has referred you because they know someone in the company or are a company employee, be sure to mention that person’s name. “Jane Smith informed me of your opening for a network administrator, and I believe I can offer exactly what you need.”
2. Your second paragraph should briefly list and describe your skills, but ONLY those that specifically relate to the organization’s need in the job posting. You must also get those highlighted keywords into this paragraph. Why?
Because a lot of cover letters and resumes are digitally screened for those words before a human reader ever gets them. You want yours to pass through that screening and be sent on.
3. The final section points to the resume you have attached as providing more detail about your ability to meet the company’s needs.
Be certain to end with a sentence that states you look forward to meeting with the recipient to discuss how you may meet their needs. Also, be certain to indicate that you are available for an interview at their convenience.
Here are the Don’ts
There are also some things that must never go into a cover letter.
- There must never be a typo, mistakes in sentence structure, or grammatical errors. If you have doubts about your writing skills, or your ability to be engaging and compelling, get help. Find a good writing service like Writing Daddy – a service that has exceptional and customized cover letter writers. Don’t take the risk of submitting a cover letter that is only mediocre.
- Don’t be generic. This bears repeating. One size does not fit all, and if you try it, you have a very poor chance of getting that interview call.
- Don’t put in unnecessary verbiage. Sentences like, “I would like to introduce myself.” Instead, “Your recent posting for an experienced network administrator caught my attention. It seems that you need someone with the exact background and experience that I have.”
- Don’t be “blah.” You need to show enthusiasm and confidence that you are the person to fill their need.
- Don’t include personal information such as age, marital status etc. This stuff should not go on your resume either.
- Never include your current salary or your salary requirements.
- Don’t use long, complex sentences. You will lose your reader.
If you can get the attention of your reader with your cover letter, you have made the “first cut.” Of course, your resume is absolutely critical, but you have to get that reader to the “dance” first.