Cover letters seem to be difficult for people, even resume writers. Why is that? What makes a good cover letter?
Cover letters can be fun to write. There really aren’t many ‘rules’ to writing them. You can let your personality shine through. They allow you to positively present your skills, accomplishments, and credentials in a way that will encourage the reader to want to read even more about you (and then move on to the resume). There are lots of things I can get into in more depth (types of resumes, scope, presentation, who your audience is, etc.) but for now, I am just going to touch on the basics. In future posts, I will dissect cover letters more closely.
Here are some easy ideas to keep in mind when writing your cover letter:
Make sure your intention is clear. In other words, what is the job you are applying for? Clearly state it. Don’t make the reader guess. You could say something like, “…and this is why my qualifications make me a perfect match for the Sales Management position”.
Highlight your top achievements. You don’t have to rewrite everything you wrote in the resume, just summarize some of your top accomplishments. Wow them with what you have done.
Add your relevant skills or qualifications. Let the reader know what you excel at and what you are capable of. This is a great place to talk about any extra credentials or training you’ve had that relate to the position.
Write toward the position you are applying for. When preparing the cover letter, keep in mind the requirements of the position and add your qualifications that match them.
Explain what it is you like about the company. Remember, you are trying to woo the company, so tell them what you like about them. Is it the reputation, products/services, location? Let them know why you like them.
You are not writing your autobiography. Keep it short, simple and factual. You don’t need to go into why the last job didn’t work out, “…my boss had unrealistic expectations of the staff, so I decided to check out my options…:. Don’t air your dirty laundry or obvious dislike of your most recent employer. Keep it professional.
Double check the entire document for accuracy, errors, and syntax. You don’t want to miss a great opportunity because you wrote, “Dear Hiring Manger”.
Another tip is to save that cover letter, copy and paste it onto a new document, and tweak it for another type of position you may be interested in. I encourage clients to have several “focused” cover letters for different positions they might have in mind. This way, if an opportunity presents itself, you are ready!