The cover letter is an essential element of the job search; in many cases, it is the closest thing a job seeker has to a personal introduction. In less than one page, the letter convinces an employer to move you to the next stage or put your application in the reject pile.
1. Matching Skills
One of the most important roles of the cover letter is to show the employer how your skills and experience qualify you for the open position. Don't leave this job to the resume — the employer is unlikely to spend enough time reviewing the resume to get a clear picture of your skills. Use your cover letter to explain your abilities and draw direct connections to the responsibilities of the job. This strategy is particularly important if you are changing careers or if you have an unusual job history, as the employer may not be familiar with your past positions. By explaining how your experience qualifies you for the job and sets you apart from candidates with standard work histories, you can use the letter to create a competitive edge.
2. Standing Out From the Crowd
During a round of hiring, an employer is likely to see tens or hundreds of applications that look and sound nearly the same. When it is written well, a cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd. The first step in differentiating yourself is to use organic and unique language. Avoid at all costs the typical phrases that pop up in cover letters, such as "to whom it may concern," "I believe I am uniquely qualified" and "I am writing to apply for," to name a few. Instead, craft a letter using your own voice. From there, infuse the letter with your personality by telling a story, letting your enthusiasm shine through or giving the employer a glimpse into your personal motivation. A vibrant, memorable letter automatically shines in comparison to cliché, cookie-cutter letters.
3. Creating the Right Impression
Employers are looking for more than a person who can satisfy a set of skills; they also want a person who meshes well with the rest of team. Finding the right fit is of particular importance for companies with strong cultures and identities. In addition to its other roles, the cover letter should convince the employer that you can work harmoniously within the existing system. The tone and style of your letter should line up with the nature of the position and the type of company. If you are applying to a youthful, cutting-edge business with a jeans-and-sneakers dress code, for example, a stiff and overly formal letter might give the wrong impression.
Writing a strong cover letter is not an easy task; it requires a careful balance of personality and professionalism. When done well, the letter can be one of the most powerful tools in your job search.
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