One must never underestimate the importance of a good cover letter. Once you’ve got your resume in shape, this should be your main focus in job searching. A good cover letter can get you through a door that your resume couldn’t. So sit down, and start writing to impress.
You probably already know the basics:
- Keep your letter to one page. Remember, you only have about 10 seconds to get HR’s attention.
- Give them a sense of who you are, first and foremost, both as a person and a candidate.
- Encourage readers to consult your resume—so they’ll see that the skills listed in the job post match yours. And remember not to focus too much on your duties, but on selling yourself as a candidate.
- Write a brand new letter for every single application.
- Get your reader’s attention in the first two sentences. Include as many keywords as you can cram in reasonably and convincingly; this lets them know that you are hip to the lingo of the job and of the industry.
- Use the terminology when you can. Repeat the exact job description language wherever possible.
In addition to the usual tricks, there are several trends every year in what’s in or out in the world of cover letters. Here are some things to keep in mind for 2017:
1. Body copy is the new cover letter.
If you’re submitting through an online site, remember that if your resume gets auto-screened and dumped, your cover letter will get dumped right along with it. Do everything you can to send your job materials to a hiring manager directly via email. That way you can use your cover letter as the body text of your email, and ensure it will be read.
2. Include contact info.
Sometimes it is possible to get hired without a resume. If this is the case, remember to always include your contact information in a footer—in your email or your cover letter itself. That way a hiring manager can always get in touch with you.
3. Be specific.
Keep in mind exactly who you are addressing your letter to and address it to them by name. Also be very clear on the position you are applying for, and make sure your letter reflects this specificity. One candidate. One letter. One job.
4. Check it twice.
Tolerance for spelling and grammar mistakes is on the wane. Make spell check and a good grammarian friend your ally. If you want your letter read, write it well. And keep it clean and mistake free.
5. Don’t just regurgitate your resume.
Make it new and fresh and really sell your candidacy to this particular decision-maker for this particular job.
6. Focus outward.
Too much personalization can be a bad thing. Remember to go through and edit for too many “I” statements. Put the focus a little bit more on them, not on you. It’ll be obvious who is writing the letter; you don’t need to hammer that one home. They know who you are and that you want them to hire you. Concentrate instead on how you are ideally suited to helping the company meet their needs and goals. Show how your skills and experience are valuable to them. Put their needs first.
7. Be clear.
Err on the side of clarity. Don’t try to get too cute or fancy. Follow all the rules above and make sure you’re still clearly and effectively communicating the requisite information, and you should be in good shape for a successful job search in the new year.
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