What Magic is Involved in Preparing a Cover Letter?
The cover letter – sometimes known as an application letter for employment – literally covers, or is placed first, over your presented or mailed resume. Usually read first, it is intended to encourage a potential employer to read over your included resume. In addition, it is a personal narrative written communication that could decidedly influence a hirer’s opinion of the applicant as a potentially suitable job candidate or one that fails that first step in gaining recognition for an interview.
Cover letters reveal written communication skills and personality traits that recruiters discover when screening prospects for ideal profiles to match advertised candidate descriptions. A cover letter, therefore, may well be a job seeker’s most potent tool in competing for a job, for it rounds out a more personal portrait than the enclosed resume, which is composed in a more skeletal format. Furthermore, a sloppy, poorly written, error-infested letter will be met with certain and immediate doom to the candidate’s chances at winning an interview – the first step to getting hired – and the letter and accompanying resume likely will be quickly discarded.
Can a well written cover letter magically overcome my competitive weaknesses?
A cleverly composed and carefully written cover letter may indeed pique a potential hirer’s interest in inviting you to participate in an interview, in spite of your comparatively weak resume. But you, the applicant, must express enthusiasm, illustrate excellent and persuasive writing and language skills, and exude an engaging, honest personality to prove that you deserve a closer look than your enclosed resume may have warranted. This first impression that you make on the reader reveals the level of your initiative and drive, often important values in an entry-level or job-changing candidate. Since communication skills are high on the list of recruiters’ demands in hiring, they recognize that well composed letters often indicate a candidate’s future success within a large organization where upward mobility to higher management levels are preceded by more than the basic skills of employment.
Six Magical Tips on Preparing a Powerful Cover Letter
1. Begin the letter stating where and when you found or learned of the job opening, and the reason(s) why you are writing. If you are writing a cover letter in response to an announced, advertised, position, state where and when you found or learned of the opening, and include a very brief description of the job (there may be several other openings advertised or known, so be specific here).
A good strategy to take is to show enthusiasm in the first sentence: “It was with great interest that I read in the Providence Sunday Journal, July 30, 20XX, of an opening with ABC Systems Corporation for a senior LAN Systems Engineer. My immediate reaction to this position was to contact you today to express my keen interest in this opportunity.” Another example is, “As a proven, results-oriented, experienced professional, I would like to discuss with you my marketing qualifications and achievements that I believe will match or surpass your ideal candidate’s profile for marketing director in your pharmaceutical division.” In addition, be certain to address and greet the intended reader by his/her name and title, if possible. NEVER use “To Whom It May Concern.” Mention your enclosed resume.
If you are inquiring about an opening that has not been advertised or one that may not even exist yet, contact the firm to find out the name and title of the person who will receive your application. Use some of the technique found in the first paragraph above to stimulate the reader’s interest in granting your interview.
If you seek an informational interview or site visit in hopes of securing a position at a later time, open your letter by saying so. State your intention to learn more about the organization, accompanied with brief supporting qualifications to merit this visit. Request that your interest be remembered and your resume kept on file should a position arise in the future.
2. Convince the reader, with supporting evidence, that your qualifications, experience, and skills can benefit the organization. The second paragraph should highlight your strengths in summary form, but not in repeated language of those in your resume. Convince the reader in forming a positive impression of you that will lead to a careful scanning of your enclosed resume. Include in narrative writing your experiences and contributions as a leader or participant in project research resulting in positive advances to a company, creativity in thinking “out of the box,” and other distinguishing achievements underpinning your claim of having matching qualifications.
3. Demonstrate your enthusiasm to work in this field and with this organization. Using selective language and careful phrasing, delineate your uniqueness as an individual with the right stuff to become a significant long-range company contributor. Mention company statistics or recent good news found in the media, i.e., The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The New York Times, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s Industry Surveys, the stock exchange, company literature found on the Internet, and the latest annual report to prove your personal interest in employment with this company and an understanding of its field and its competitors.
An example of the above is, “It has been my goal to become a member of the XYZ Advertising team because I welcome the challenges of such a fast-paced, creative professional environment. I am prepared to contribute my energy, experience, and enthusiasm to assist in generating creative ideas to further XYZ’s already prominent position in the advertising arena.”
4. Be professional, yet somewhat personal, in describing your qualifications and strengths. A well written cover letter ought to create a clear image of a candidate who is eager and ready to become part of a team environment or take on a management position that will benefit the company or organization in its long-range objectives. Companies strive to grow through planning and proper implementation of planning objectives, so your cover letter should obviate your willingness and readiness to become an important part of that model. Use industry specific technical language that ties your own development to the objectives of this company and the industry. Show your own individuality and personality in composing the letter. Your cover letter’s technical terminology may be couched in a personal tone of language to be construed, if you are hired, as a potential quality to become an affable contributor while conducting business within its cultural corporate environment.
5. Close the letter by requesting an interview, expressing your thanks, and initiating a follow-up. Example: “I welcome the opportunity to meet with you to prove that I fit XYZ’s ideal profile for this position. If I do not hear from you by August 10, I will contact your office in the hope of scheduling a meeting at a time that is convenient to you or another member of your staff. I can be reached at my cell phone on any day or evening by calling (111) 222-3333. Thank you for considering my application for this position.”
6. Carefully proofread and edit your letter to improve language, sentence construction, and correct all errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Ask a competent person to do the same before you submit the letter.
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