Before you send out another résumé, either electronically or physically, check your cover letter. Is it doing all that it can to make the case that you are the candidate they should consider most closely? Work this list every time.
1. Does it exist? Sometimes people ask if a cover letter is needed. Look at it this way: if two résumés detailing equivalent experience and qualifications arrive, and one is accompanied by a well-written letter than sells the candidate, who is more likely to get the call? A great letter can tip the scales in your favor. Do it!
2. Is it a proper business letter? This isn’t an email. Nor is it casual correspondence. Use a formal business letter format that includes the date, inside address, a colon (not a comma) after the greeting, and a professional closing.
3. Do you state your purpose? Your first paragraph should clearly state the position for which you are applying, the location where you want to work, and where you found the position advertisement. If you were referred by a person, state it plainly.
4. Do you make a customized pitch? The most important purpose of a cover letter is to sell you for the position. Imagine that you have two minutes with the hiring manager to explain why you should be hired. Write this. Tie your reasons to the qualifications, requirements, and perceived culture of the company. Answer, “Why should I hire you?” Your cover letter should be customized for every position for which you apply. More work, but it’s worth it.
5. Did you address obvious questions? Relocations and long-term unemployment experiences that will be questioned should be addressed. Develop a one-sentence explanation. Something like this can work: “After a large reduction in force with my last company due to industry contraction, I am ready to bring my skills, experience and business acumen to your organization to be part of a successful future.”
6. Did you say “thank you”? You might find it hard to believe, but many letters get sent without the common courtesy of thanks. Don’t let that be you.
7. You proofread, right? Employers rightfully assume that if you are sloppy in your job search – when you have all the time you need to get it right – you will be sloppy as an employee. Simple typos can kill your chances (see The Thank You Letter of Doom for a real horror story). Don’t let it happen to you.
Do you have cover letter success stories to share? Tell everyone about it in the comments below.
Work your cover letter hard and the effort will pay you back. Good luck!
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