Many job seekers spend hours working on a resume, and only minutes revising their standard “To Whom It May Concern” cover letter. Underestimating the importance of your cover letter can result in immediate rejection, with the employer never even glancing at your carefully crafted resume. Follow these four suggestions, however, and you will greatly increase the odds that your resume will not only make it into the employer’s hands, but also get you the interview.
Four Tips for Writing Cover Letters that Get Results
1. Address the letter to a specific person by his or her name. This is essential if the person’s name is mentioned in the job posting. (Believe it or not, some job seekers still will submit a cover letter addressed to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern”!) Even if the person’s name is not mentioned, do your homework to find out the name of the hiring manager or the person who will be reviewing the resumes. Researching the company’s website, using LinkedIn.com, and calling the company are some of the ways of finding this information. Some employers simply throw out generic cover letters (and the accompanying resumes), assuming the job seeker is either lazy or not resourceful. On the plus side, employers may consider job seekers who personalize cover letters to be more creative and proactive than those who don’t make the extra effort.
2. Proofread carefully. While this is basic advice, we have seen numerous cover letters (and resumes) that inadvertently have misspellings, grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation. Most of us are fallible in this area, especially when we’ve been working on the same document for hours. Get someone else (who is good at catching mistakes) to proofread your cover letter and resume after you think it is “perfect.” Don’t let your resume be thrown into the employer’s reject pile because of a simple typo.
3. Make your key points clearly and quickly. Most employers are very busy, and appreciate cover letters that readily provide pertinent information. Your cover letter should indicate the position for which you are applying (since the employer may have more than one opening); any key connections that will distinguish you from the competition (such as a prior contact/meeting with the employer, a referral or reference from an employee of the company or a mutual contact); why you are applying for the position; and, your most important “selling points” for the position.
4. Focus on the employer’s needs, not your own. The employer isn’t concerned about offering you a job that meets your need to “grow professionally,” “achieve your full potential,” “develop your leadership skills,” or any of the other personal objectives people often include in their cover letters (or resume objectives). In contrast, the hiring manager’s primary concern is whether you understand and can address the employer’s needs.
Do your homework; research the company’s challenges, strengths, competition, goals and financial status. Read the job posting carefully to discern how the position fits within the company, and how you could be an asset in meeting the company’s (or department’s) needs. You will distinguish yourself from the average jobseeker by doing careful research, and communicating not only what you know about the organization, but also how you could use your skills, knowledge and experience to perform well in the jobwith a mindset of serving the company and meeting its needs.
Why Should I Hire You?
Remember that when an employer reads a cover letter and resume, the bottom line question in his or her mind is, “Why should I hire you?” Make sure your cover letter and resume answers that question with careful attention to both visual presentation and content. If you follow the four suggestions in this article, not only will your cover letter and resume be well-received, but you will likely soon find yourself preparing for an interview!
If you would like professional assistance with your cover letter, resume or other aspects of your job search, we invite you to look into our career coaching services. After reading about our services, you can schedule a free consultation session to discuss which career services would best meet your needs. We would consider it a privilege to help you find work that fits your God-given design!