Cover Letters for the Clueless
“I’m clueless regarding the content and format for cover letters,” writes a recent MBA grad. “What should I put in the cover letter and how can I make myself stand out?”
That’s a question I hear at least 10 times a week from new grads and experienced workers alike.
In a nutshell, here’s my answer — your cover letter should quickly build rapport with the reader, express your enthusiasm for the job and motivate the reader to carefully consider your resume.
How do you that? Read on!
- If possible, start your cover letter with the name of a recipient (call a receptionist if you have to, to get this name). This will set you apart from the applicants who write: “Dear Sir or Madam.”
If that fails, try this opening: “Dear Employer.” It has a confident ring about it, without sounding pretentious.
- Throughout your letter, focus on the needs of your prospective employer. They have problems. That’s why they’re hiring. Your cover letter should say (although not in so many words): “I’m the answer to your problems.”
- Display your knowledge of the company. With the Internet as your research tool, you should be able to drop facts into your cover letter that show you understand the company, its products, needs and competition.
- Briefly state your best qualifications and achievements. Don’t spend a lot of time rehashing your resume. But do include enough tidbits to build interest.
- State that you will follow up. If you politely inform the reader that you’ll be calling in two days to answer any questions, you’ll set yourself apart from the 80-95% of other applicants who wait passively for the phone to ring.
- Keep your letter short and focused. Show respect for the limited time your reader has. Anything longer than four to six paragraphs says, in effect: “Hello. I have no idea how to prioritize my thoughts. Care to hear my life story?”
To get your resume read, and to get that job interview, your cover letter must quickly convey your enthusiasm and competence. Follow these suggestions and you can do just that.
Best of luck to you!
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash