If you’ve just learned of a job opening, chances are you’re not the only horse in the race. How can you distinguish yourself from the other candidates? You can market yourself not only in the resume but in the cover letter. (Remember, in today's market, you are marketing your personal brand.)
Cover letters can be every bit as important as your resume in your path towards a new position. In your resume you’re restricted to a format that’s based on your job history and accomplishments. A cover letter is a chance to make your case for consideration in another, more free-form structure.
A good cover letter tells the reader:
- That you have read and understood the job description and know what it entails
- That you have prior skills and experience that make you a good fit for the job
- That you can produce a well-written, concise letter with relevant information
**Here's what goes into an effective cover letter**
Always include the basics
Just as with any business letter, use a standard letter format, block style or modified block style.
Return Address (unless you are using letterhead paper)
- Just as in your resume, your contact information needs to be easy to find. Make the following items the first thing your reader sees:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your email address
- Your phone number
Inside Address (Name, Company, address)
Attention Line (optional)
Signature Block (allow 4 blank lines to sign your name, then type your name; sign it exactly as you typed it)
The salutation is the first personalized part of your cover letter template. Try to locate the person who is sending out the job requirement. If you can’t find it in on the web site, maybe you could phone the company and ask. Don’t spend too long on this step,
- "Dear Mr. Smith” (that is, use the recipient's name). This is the best choice of all.
- “Dear Hiring Manager” is better, but still weaker than addressing someone by name
- "Dear Sir/Madam” is really the last choice. Do not write Sir or Madam unless you’re absolutely sure of the letter recipient's gender.
- Do Not Use "To Whom It May Concern" or "To Who It May Concern" under any circumstances.
Tell them why you're writing
Always make it clear what job your applying for and how you learned about it. In the first paragraph, or as a separate heading, identify the precise job to which you are applying.
“In response to your advert in the Sunday Dispatch for Network Engineer (post ID #12345)….”
RE: Divisional Manager Director Posting #456789
Map your skills and experience to the the job requirements
What’s your personal fit for the role? Go through the ad and make mental or written notes on the aspects that you can really show your previous success. Use these notes to personalize your fit with the job requirements.
Call attention to elements of your background that are relevant to this job posting. Indicate what you achieved in your jobs, not just that you held that position.
Indicate what you will do to follow up
Take the initiative to follow up. End your letter with a call to action! For example:
“I will contact you in next two weeks to learn more about the job…”
Before you send out the cover letter –
Spell-check the cover letter just as stringently as you would spell-check your resume! A typo on the cover letter may be the difference between the candidate pile and the floor.
What are your next steps?
Use this article as a checklist for your next cover letter. In future articles we’ll post more about the job search.
If you need more specific advice for your personal job search, please contact us at The Pink Anvil.