Special to CSMS Magazine
Because job seekers generally agonize over the question of how to write a cover letter, their result is most of the time a weak intro badly lacked the punchier opening needed to capture the interest of the reader on the receiving end. Experts agree that while looking for that professional job to make that makes one’s dream come true, it is crucial to stay away from common cover letter traps. Tighten the writing approach to land that job reveals to be the most effective strategy to securing it. Generic cover letters usually start this way: “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam,” followed by, “I saw your ad in the newspaper and I would like to apply for the open position. My résumé is enclosed and I will wait to hear from you.”
This pities the reader who receives hundreds of generically written cover letters like these mentioned above. Generic cover letters send a wrong signal to the employer. It shows signs that you are doing a mass mailing and will take any job. If you are guilty of this practice, it’s important to realize you also are sending the wrong message. Prospective employers must be convinced that you want to work at their company and fill their specific job. No two cover letters should ever be the same.Great cover letter should always answer these three questions: .
What can you do for the company?* Why do you want to work for them?* Why are you qualified for the position? “The cover letter is the most important illustration of your communication skills when you are not meeting someone in person,” said Lois Levy, an executive development consultant in Lake Worth. “It must grab the reader’s attention and immediately separate you from the crowd.”Levy said that the opening paragraph of the cover letter tells the reader why you are writing and why you are the best person for the job. For example, instead of saying, “Please consider me for your sales representative,” try: “Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match to my three-year history as a No. 1-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer.””The second paragraph should mirror the words used in the ad or in the posting and include any of the distinctive words you used in your résumé summary,” said Levy.
An example of this strategy is using the “Your Specific Needs/My Related Skills” header. Make sure to include things such as your communications skills and computer background and proficiency.The closing paragraph should include your intention to follow up, rather than saying you’ll wait for a call – a call that will probably never come.Since job seekers frequently struggle with the question of how to write a cover letter, their result often is a feeble introduction lacking punch and failing to grab the reader’s interest. A real error is using sample letters found in self-help books. Use the letters in books as models, but always use your own words and style.
Imagine the recruiter or hiring manager receiving the exact same letter from a multitude of applicants.”An interesting cover letter signals that you took the time to write it, and is a showcase of your written communications style,” said Debra Laster, director of employee relations at the Solid Waste Authority in West Palm Beach. “It also is more personal and serves as a window of your career history as it specifically applies to the position.”Even if you are a recent graduate or a student looking for a part-time job, a letter with your résumé will make you stand out. If you are short on experience, emphasize your teamwork, responsibility and ability to follow directions, and how some of the courses you have taken will relate to the position.You can also grab attention by using numbers or qualifiers.
A brief statement or bullet point about the number of employees you managed or customers you served, or cash responsibilities you held, can make the difference.”Keep cover letters brief and emphasize how you will add value to their company,” said Gina Hall, managing consultant for Drake Beam Morin in Orlando and Boca Raton. “Eliminate the “I’s’ and articulate clearly what you believe would connect with the mind of the reader.”Hall also suggests using bullet points to make the cover letter easier to read. When hiring managers have hundreds of documents waiting for them on their desks, they appreciate brevity.
Cover letters must always accompany a résumé whether you are sending it by fax, e-mail, or delivering it in person. A faxed cover page is not a substitute. Put the cover letter in the message of the e-mail rather than as an attachment. Write very brief cover letters in the message of an e-mail. Follow up with a hard copy whenever possible.Finally, double check to make certain that the cover letter:* Is free of errors* Uses key words* Includes meaningful information different from your résumé* Is addressed to the right person, not, “To whom it may concern”* Supports how you meet the specific needs of the employer* Ends with an action step outlining your follow upPowerful cover letters establish rapport, and that familiarity could help you land the job of your dreams.
Note: Elizabeth Krushmer, a marketing consultant, lives and works in Saint Augustine, Florida. She wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.