Writing a cover letter to accompany a resume, for some, can conjure up bad memories from high school or college composition class. With sweaty palms, they reach for the Thesaurus and Dictionary. That feeling of uncertainty begins to cloud their thoughts and words as they ponder, “What do I want to say? Why should they hire me? What makes me a worthwhile candidate?”
My advice to clients who are job searching is to keep it brief and to the point. The individual or team, who is screening the applicants and possibly interviewing as well, have lots of reading to wade through. Brevity, clarity, and appeal for action will help you get noticed.
In three to four paragraphs, tell the potential employer :
- What you want? How did you hear of the position and why are you applying? Do you know someone who works there? Are you familiar with the product or the service? Make the connection.
- What you can do for them? Why should they hire you? What do you bring to the company? Expand on a few key points regarding your skills and experience from your resume
- Make the contact for an interview. Lead the employer to action. Be proactive and say you will be contacting them regarding the position. Make sure you give your phone number and email. Be available for the calls or emails.
- Outline the cover letter with notes of what you want to say. Jot down words and phrases. The cover letter is a reflection of you. So, “know thyself” means take time to reflect and organize what you want to say before you construct the letter.
- Do your research on the employer using the Internet, annual reports, newspaper, etc.
- The salutation should include a name, Dear Mr. Brown or Dear Ms. Clark. This is no time for “Dear Sir, Dear Madam” and never, never “To Whom It May Concern.”
- Proofread the cover letter. Use the professional format with proper spacing and margins. Appearance matters. Ask someone else to proof it as well.
- Read the cover letter aloud. Does it flow? How does it sound to you?
- Show energy and enthusiasm in the letter. Would you hire yourself?
The good news…once you create a professional cover letter, it will serve as a template that can be used for other applications.