Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Constructing a Cover Letter that ACTUALLY Gets Read

Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Interestingly, a lot of candidates will shoot themselves in the foot on the issue of the cover letter.  I’ve seen many, many people, put inordinate time into their resume, making it the ‘perfect’ document only to then subvert those efforts in a letter written hastily and not connecting to the employer, position or industry even. Writing a cover letter is like writing a brief persuasive essay.

With the cover letter, not only are you writing about your skills and qualifications, but doing so as they directly relate to a position to which you are applying.  You are speaking to your own experiences and skills with the intent of injecting them into, and demonstrating your fit, match, and/or candidacy for a potential company or organization.  

The cover letter, as a document, is just as important as the resume, in fact in many ways more so in these times.  Reason this is said is that many candidates may have similar qualifications, skills and/or experiences to yours?  Some will have even stronger claims, but it is in the cover letter where it enables you to bring your resume alive to a prospective employer.  It is here that you are really creating your one-page advertisement and it is in this writing, where you have the one chance to ‘sell’ it!  Think of a movie production where the resume is the cast of characters/credits and the cover letter is the story line or plot!  Neither is good without a strong, complementary version of the other to accompany it.

Think of your cover letter as a document of three or four parts, neatly tying together what you’re offering, what the employer is looking for and what the position is asking for.  It should not simply be a re-hash of your resume, but a complementary document that is engaging to the reader.  This is work for the employer! Make it, if not enjoyable for them, at least less of a chore. Keep it interesting and connected to their daily existence.  Present yourself in a professional capacity with a vested interest.  Remember, all your resume and cover letter, as a package, is to do is make that potential person pick up the phone in interest!  Nothing more, so it needs to shine in the moment!

1. The introductory paragraph

A good cover letter will grab the reader right at the beginning and it really needs to.  Essentially, consider your resume and cover letter to be an interruption in one’s day on the recipient’s end?  That being said, it needs to grab their attention and make them want to read on.  Your first paragraph is your chance to introduce yourself, explain how you came to know about the position in question and the very reader who’s on the other side of the desk?  Here is your opportunity to make a ‘connection’ with the reader and have that reader want to see more below.

2. Your ‘case’ for approach

In the ‘body’ of your letter is your time, in one or two paragraphs, to sell them on you and your abilities, commitment and understanding of how all what you’re offering applies to that particular employer!  Engage them with your knowledge, research and understanding of how you see yourself involved.  Talk about them, the industry, trends, and issues that you may foresee and how you can help?  Support what you’re saying with brief, specific examples of relevant skills, abilities or experiences that make you an excellent candidate and connect them to the employer in question.  Frankly, a good cover letter solves a problem for an organization.  A great cover letter addresses your recognizing a problem they don’t even know they have!  Think of how valuable that can be to the potential reader as if you can do so, you have an ardent reader!

3. Closing statement and sign-off

Affirm your interest in the opportunity and neatly tie all you have said back together in a nice, closing summary.  Maybe request an interview or say when and how you will follow-up after this has been submitted, and thank the employer for considering your application.

Remember that the cover letter’s ‘job’ is to build a bridge between your resume and the opportunity at hand.  Focus on the most relevant, strongest skills and experiences you bring to that employer.  It is not a document where you want to have it left open to the reader’s interpretation, so it needs to be clear, connected and relevant.  Good resumes are commonplace these days, so your letter is a chance to really bring it to life in that employer’s eyes!  If what you’ve garnered in reading this is the fact that a ‘generic’ resume and cover letter are not a very good idea for your success in getting a call-back, you are spot-on! They need to be tailored, specific and pointed in addressing that organization’s needs in question.  A generic writing can be seen a mile away and if so, what are you then telling that prospective employer about your interest in them directly?

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