Seven Secrets to a Great Cover Letter
Aside from a resume, your cover letter is the most important job
searching tool you must develop. A cover letter introduces you to
potential employers and gives you the opportunity to draw the
reader's attention to particular skills and experiences. Done right,
a cover letter can move your resume to the top of the pile. If you
are not sure how to make your cover letter stand out, here are seven
secrets that will get you started in the right direction.
1. Make it personal. Do not address a cover letter to a generic
being, such as "hiring manager." While finding the correct addressee
might take a little work, finding that person is well worth the
effort. Call the company and ask to whom to send your resume. If the
company will not give you a name, try to find out through other
means, such as current employees or corporate Web site. Putting a
real name on your letter will make it look more like an important
piece of correspondence and less like junk mail.
2. Get to the point. Your cover letter should never be more than one
page, and once you include your return address and the company
address, you do not have much space. That is why you need to let the
reader know why you are writing immediately. If you are responding to
an ad for an open position, mention that ad and position in the first
line or two. If you have been referred by another individual, let the
reader know that right up front.
3. Show off your company knowledge. One way to get a hiring manager's
attention is by demonstrating that you have done your homework.
Before you start writing your letter, research the company to learn
about recent news and events, its financial status or any mergers or
acquisitions. You can then incorporate this knowledge into your
letter, particularly in the first paragraph. For example, you might
start by mentioning a recent story you read about the company's
success expanding into an international market, and express your
interest in utilizing your past experience in international business
relations to help further the company's position overseas.
4. Answer their prayers. You can and should use your letter to give
the company exactly what it is looking for. This means paying
attention to job postings and descriptions and advising that you have
the desired skills and qualifications. If the company has indicated
it is seeking candidates with budget management experience, make sure
you talk specifically about your experience, such as "I have
experience in managing budgets of approximately $5 million and
consistently achieving departmental financial goals." Use your cover
letter to point out exactly why you are a good fit. The best way to
do this is by making it easy for the reader to come to the same
5. Show, don't just tell. One mistake many people make on cover
letters is saying they have certain qualifications without including
any evidence to back up their claims. Are you positioning yourself as
an individual with strong customer service skills? Include specific
examples that speak to those skills. This may mean pulling out one or
two accomplishments throughout your career and writing about them in
detail in the second or third paragraph.
6. Promise to take action. A cover letter is like any other aspect of
job hunting – the squeaky wheel always gets the oil. Wrap up your
cover letter with a promise to contact the company, and then back up
your statement with action. Your cover letter is too important to end
by just saying "I look forward to hearing from you." Take the
initiative by telling the reader, "I will follow up with you in the
next week to schedule a convenient time for us to meet."
7. Read and read again. Are you tired of working on your cover
letter? Do you feel like you have read it 100 times already? It's
always a good idea to read it just a couple more times to ensure that
you do not have any typos, spelling or grammatical errors. Once you
have exhausted yourself in the editing process, give the letter to a
friend or family member to read. Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes can
pick up on things that have been missed for ages.