How to Write a Cover Letter for Maximum Impact
Today a client asked me to explain the differences between the resume and the cover letter. Many people assume that the cover letter is just a formality and simply something hiring managers and recruiters have come to expect. But the cover letter can serve a much higher purpose.
Job search is about building relationships and proving to a prospective employer that you are a good fit for the organization and someone who will forge a positive relationship with the firm. Your cover letter is your first opportunity to establish rapport with an employer.
With a style that's less "formulaic" than the resume, the cover letter allows you to interject more about your personal brand and competencies and identify your reasons for career progressions, shifts, and detours. In a sense, the cover letter humanizes the process of search and lessens the tedium managers face when combing through a mountain of resumes.
In addition, a good cover letter addresses the employer's needs and showcases the candidate's ability to figure out employers' problems and proactive solutions. So next time you draft a cover letter, think of it as a key "touch point" with a hiring manager, rather than a required form letter
Here are some tips for writing more powerful.
1. Match your qualifications to the requirements of the job.
Create a cover letter that addresses each job requirement point by point. The stronger the match you can make between the two, the greater the likelihood of securing an interview. If the job description lists five core requirements and you are only proficient in two of them, the fit is not strong and it may not be an appropriate position for you to apply to. If the position description lists five requirements and you can speak to four or more of those requirements, the position is probably a good match.
2. Build rapport with your audience.
Discuss relevant business issues and ask thought-provoking questions to show your reader that you recognize their needs. Offer strategic solutions that position you as a thought leader who can add immediate value to the organization.
3. Begin your cover letter with a compelling statement.
Rather than starting your cover letter with a reference to the position you are applying for, write a statement that aligns you with the organization, industry, or job function you are targeting. Discuss an industry problem or need and prove that you are part of the solution.
4. Minimize the use of the word "I".
Vary your sentences to keep the reader engaged and don't begin every sentence with "I". Keep the writing style fluid and develop a tone that is somewhat conversational and develops rapport with the reader.
5. Ask for the interview.
Create a strong call to action in your letter by expressing your interest in the company and requesting an in-person interview. Reiterate your reasons for feeling confident that you are the right match for the position.
6. Consider Including a famous quote to make your point.
Incorporating quotes that are relevant to the topics your letter is discussing is a great way to create a memorable letter that connects you to your reader. Quotes on efficiency, innovation, business development, and leadership can add a unique spin to your letter, a compelling value proposition, or a good conversation starter during an interview.
7. Use a compelling subject line.
When emailing a resume, you are more likely to grab the hiring authority's attention and elicit a call to action if the subject line of your email includes a memorable subject line such as President's Club Sales Manager, Award-Winning Customer Service Representative, or Six Sigma Project Manager.
8. Keep the letter to one page.
Keep your cover letters short and use short paragraphs and bulleted lists to keep the reader's attention and make it easy for them to determine the match between your qualifications and their open job.
9. Address the hiring authority by name.
The likelihood of building rapport with the reader and validating your interest in the job is increased when the inside cover address refers to the specific person rather than "Dear Sir". Whenever possible, sleuth around for additional information on the hiring manager so you can personalize your letter. Try surfing the company website to find the appropriate name or call the company directly to make an inquiry.
10. Reference the position you are applying for.
Be sure to mention the job title and job number in the body of your letter as well as in your email subject line. Many hiring authorities request this information, and your inability to follow their instructions could jeopardize your candidacy and lead them to believe that you have not paid attention to the details of their request.
11. Sign your name.
Sounds obvious, but sometimes people overlook this detail. If you are sending a letter regular mail, include your handwritten signature. If your correspondence is via e-mail, create an electronic signature.
Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, has over fifteen years of experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, and organizational development.
Barbara partners with both Fortune 100 companies and individuals to deliver targeted programs focusing on resume development, job search strategies, networking, interviewing, salary negotiation skills, and online identity management.
She is the author of Happy About My Resume: 50 Tips For Building a Better Document to Secure a Brighter Future and #JOBSEARCHtweet and her award-winning resumes are featured in dozens of career-related publications.