While a well-written resume shows off a job candidate's skill set, an effective cover letter offers a different yet related opportunity: the chance to demonstrate why you're the right candidate for the job on one pithy page. Consider these four tips designed to help your cover letter stand out from the crowd.
1. Make it Personal
While you might be able to get away with recycling your resume for multiple jobs, this is an absolute no-no when it comes to cover letter writing. Why? Because cover letter are all about showing off how your background, skills and experience match the needs of a company as they pertain to the job for which you're applying.
Effective cover letters are anything but cookie cutter. Rather, each cover letter should be carefully crafted to match with the job at hand.
Making it personal also means addressing the letter to an actual human person. While it may take a little time to identify the proper department head or hiring manager, doing so demonstrates initiative and resourcefulness.
2. Focus on Fit
Even if you're the most amazing candidate in the world, this attribute is worthless if your cover letter fails to convey how your skills match the position. Pay careful attention to the job description when writing your cover letter, using keywords and key phrases to showcase your qualifications.
However, keep in mind that anyone can throw some keywords on a page. Don't arbitrarily stuff your cover letter with keywords; instead, come up with specific examples which align with what the company is looking for.
In addition to researching the job, also research the company, along with its products and services. More and more companies are prioritizing "cultural fit" when it comes to filling open positions. Understanding a company's culture can help you focus your cover letter for best success, while further enhancing your status as a desirable candidate.
3. Catch Their Eye
Hundreds of resumes may cross a hiring manager's desk every single day. How do you make sure yours gets noticed? Skip the conventional "five paragraph" letter, and instead use bullet points to highlight your strengths. This spares hiring managers the task of sorting through your essay trying to identify its main points. Instead, it does the work on their behalf. You will still need an introduction and closing paragraphs, but stick with bullets to deliver the content you want to emphasize.
4. Assert Yourself
Many cover letters lack one essential element: a call to action. While expressing your gratitude is important, ending with a follow-up is a much stronger appeal. Whether you mention that you'll call to check in on the status of your resume next week or express that you're looking forward to further discussing why you're right for the position, including a call to action not only demonstrates confidence, but also gives you the chance to show you're accountable.
Ultimately, if a good cover letter is a foot in the door, a call to action is the chance to leverage that food into something greater.
One tip, however: if you say you're going to follow up, FOLLOW UP.
While it's impossible to fully understand what's going through a hiring manager's mind when evaluating candidates, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to make a positive first impression. These four tips can help you take your cover letter from average to amazing.
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