Your Cover Letter, Your Story

December 26 2011

Nothing is more infuriating to an employer than to receive a resume with no cover letter. With a tight job market, competition is intense and it’s a “sink or swim” world out there. Job searchers beware: job searching has become a lot more brutal. Take it from me. I was forced to quit my job to relocate across the country for my husband’s job. 5 years ago, I had employers knocking down my door. Fast forward to 2011 and I feel like the annoying student in the front of the class with my hand raised as high as I can get it, but the teacher won’t even look my way. QuitOrNot.com (www.quitornot.com) will help you make your “quit or not” decision, but once you’re in the job market, let me show you the ropes to getting interviews. Since starting my own job search, I have landed a phone interview with every company I have applied to. The reason: my cover letter.

There are a few basics that should first be mentioned without much explanation needed. Your cover letter should look attractive, be only one page long, grammatically correct, include the current date, be addressed to a specific person or department, and have the physical address of the place you are applying to. If the address and specific person’s name do not appear in the job description, find them. There are simple tools like Google (www.google.com) and LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com) that can help you find that information. You have to become a job detective and use your creativity to find information, but it is worth it in the end.

Your first sentences should make it clear which position you are applying for and why you should be considered. “Please consider me for the <job title> position you have available. My extensive <field> experience and strong work ethic make me the perfect candidate to fit into <company name>.” This sentence is fairly generic and can be catered to your own field with a more specific example, but be sure to pin-point one of your strongest skills into the reason for why they should consider you. If you have an impressive accomplishment, this is the place to mention it.

Make your cover letter relevant. This is the most important thing you will learn from this article. You must answer the question, “Why should I hire you to do this job?” Employers want you to clearly explain why they should consider picking up the phone and calling you for an interview. You need to do the work for them. The best way to do this is to take pieces of their job description and include them in your letter. For instance, if the job description says that they are looking for someone who can “multi-task and manage multiple projects while managing a team of 5 people.” Your cover letter could say, “You mention that you are looking for someone capable of managing multiple project at once. While with <company name>, one of the things I mastered was how to juggle multiple tasks while leading my team to success.” This shows you paid attention and actually read what their needs are. You are trying to sell yourself and, as with any sales job, you have to establish a need and find a solution. YOU are the solution, so convey that in your cover letter. You should try to reference at least 2-3 of their job description needs and relate them your experience. Your cover letter needs to be about the employer and how you fit into their scenario.

One thing most people hear when they first learn to write a cover letter is to not overuse the word “I.” As simple as this sounds, it is true. You cannot completely avoid using it, but bury it in sentences and try to avoid starting your sentences with “I.” This is a skill that takes some work, but will help you make your letter about the employer. It is a way to sell yourself without sounding too self-centered.

End your letter with something a little more unique than, “I hope to hear from you soon.” Try something like, “<Company name> has such a well-respected name in our community and working for you would be such an exciting opportunity for me. My schedule is open to meet at your convenience, so please contact me for the next step.”

These are just a few ways to make your cover letter more relevant and personalized to each job you apply to. It can get daunting, but it is worth the effort. There are some parts of your cover letter than can probably stay the same with each application, but take the time to relate your experience to that specific employer. Your effort will shine through and put you above other candidates who did not take that extra step.

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