When your cover letter passes over a recruiter's desk or computer screen, you'll get as many as 10 seconds of attention before the recruiter moves on to the next applicant. Take advantage of that limited time by writing a cover letter that grabs a hiring manager's interest in the first sentence. Here are three key approaches to writing an attention-grabbing cover letter.
Drop a Name
The very best way to grab the attention of a job recruiter or hiring manager is to mention the name of a person the manager knows and respects in the very first sentence. When a hiring manager sees the name of a friend or colleague, she is going to keep reading and is likely to place your letter and resume in the pile of people being seriously considered. If you have a contact within a company or know someone highly respected in the field in which you're applying, lead with that name in your letter, saying something like "Jane Smith suggested I contact you regarding..."
Before you use someone's name in a cover letter or as a reference, make sure you get that person's permission. If your relationship is good, go ahead and ask your contact if she'd be willing to call the company on your behalf as well.
Tell a Story
Don't start your cover letter by listing your qualifications. That's what everyone else does, and besides, your qualifications should be fully covered on your resume. Instead, tell a story about something you achieved or learned in a previous job that shows off your accomplishments or makes you look useful to the company to which you're applying. If you have a personal connection to the company, perhaps because a relative once worked there or because you have a long history with the company's products, that can also be the start of a brief but compelling story.
Get the Details Right
Sometimes cover letters grab the hiring manager's attention in the wrong way. This occurs when the job applicant addresses the letter to the wrong person or spells the hiring manager's name wrong or makes other mistakes that are easily avoidable. Do a little research to get the name of the person screening resumes for the specific position for which you are applying. Make sure you know whether the person is male or female so you can get the honorifics right on the letter.
Avoid starting your cover letters with the same old thing: "I'm interested in applying for the position because..." Attention-grabbing cover letters pique the reader's interest immediately and are impossible to put down. Go out of your way to contact people who might put you on the inside track and to get any details about the hiring process right, then take the time to craft an opening paragraph that grabs the attention of the reader.
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