|Impress hiring companies with|
your cover letter!
1. Choose the right salutation
If you know the person’s name and gender, include the information.
Examples: Dear Mr. Tompkins, Dear Dr. Tompkins, or Dear George.
In general, use the proper Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., or Dr. title and last name rather than just their first name, unless you are acquainted with the person or want to let the recipient know you are typically on a first name basis with executives. It is also an acceptable alternative if you do not know if a woman uses Mrs., Miss, Ms. or Dr.
If you don’t know their gender, but do know their first name or initial, use a construction like Dear Pat Brimley or Dear P. Brimley.
If you aren’t sure you have the contact’s name correct, call and ask the company’s receptionist, look up the person on LinkedIn, or research the name on Google.
If the contact's name is unknown, consider these options (in order of my preference):
Dear Hiring Executive,
Dear Hiring Manager,
Dear Human Resources,
To whom it may concern,
Sir or Madam,
2. Include the title of the position, the company name and where you heard about the opening.
Example: "I am very interested in XYZ Corporation’s Telecommunications Manager opening that I read about on Monster.com." Including this information helps busy hiring executives sort your paperwork properly and lets them know which of their job posting services is drawing candidates.
3. State your connection to the company. If you know someone within the company, mention your relationship (and if relevant, how that relationship has bearing on why you are applying). If you are passionate about the company’s products or the nonprofit’s efforts, explain why.
Example to a plant science nonprofit: “I am particularly interested in your organization because I am passionate about plant science discoveries. I serve on the ABC Ecology Board where I work with leading botanists to improve funding for temperate forest research. I would like to bring this passion and my plant science experience to the XYZ Center.”
4. Sum up why you are the best person for the position. Don’t repeat your resume verbatim, but do succinctly state how your background and abilities can help the target company succeed.
Example: “As you can see in my resume, I am a versatile and talented communicator with more than 15 years of corporate communications, marketing, and public relations experience working for Impressive Company Name and non-profits. I also have expertise in counseling executives and developing winning communication strategies that could greatly benefit XYZ Company.”
Use key words from the job description and power words to describe your abilities. Particularly reinforce that you have experience handling the position’s core duties and the specific equipment or computer applications mentioned in the job description.
Consider expounding upon one important aspect of the job description and explain how you handled a similar situation in an exceptional way.
5. Be creative (but not obnoxious!) Consider how to present your personality in a positive light or use your writing ability to set yourself apart from other candidates. For example, tell a story that portrays your expertise in the best light.
Here’s an example I’ve used:
“What intrigued me most about your communications manager position is the broad skill set that is required. Here's why. A colleague once referred to me as an "ace utility player." Not knowing much about baseball terminology, I asked him what he meant, to which he replied, "If a company needs a public relations leader, you are an expert publicist. If they need a marketing director, a communications pro, an editor, whatever they need -- you're it. Most people can do one thing well, two at the most, but Kathy, you can do it all extremely well." What struck me about his kind words enough to remember them, was that he zeroed in on exactly what it is I offer that makes me an excellent match for this position … versatility … [then I’d segue into why my background made me qualified].
6. Keep it brief. If you are sending your cover letter by mail, keep it to one page. If sending by email, keep it to at most five paragraphs. Keep paragraphs short for easiest readability.
7. Include a testimonial. For example, use one of your LinkedIn recommendations to reinforce your qualifications.
8. Respond to salary requirement requests. If the job description asks for salary requirements, decide how to respond by using the suggestions on this Get a Job! blog post. If it doesn’t ask, don’t tell, lest it disqualify you before you get an interview.
9. Draw attention to your qualifications. Use a table within your cover letter listing the job’s requirements in one column and your related qualifications in another to show how perfect you are for the job.
10. Include your contact information and the best times/ways to reach you.
Provide your phone number (with area code) as well as your e-mail address, and let potential employers know which way is your preferred communication channel. If you work in an environment where you can’t accept calls easily, let potential employers know to leave a call-back number, or state times when you can talk most easily.
11. Close strong. Boldly request an interview.
Examples: “I would enjoy talking with you about this exciting opportunity at your earliest convenience. Thank you.”
“Please feel free to review my resume, then call me at NUMBER or e-mail me at E-MAIL ADDRESS to discuss the position.”
13. Proof your cover letter especially if you use the same one over and over. Pay particular attention to where you mention the company name, lest you mention the wrong company like a job applicant did when he applied to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and wrote about how excited he was about the opportunity to work for Kentucky Fried Chicken!
14. Add a brief P.S. The P.S. section is often the most read part of a letter, so use the space to succinctly convey how interested and qualified you are for the position.
And here’s a P.S. for you, job seeker! If you apply for a job through an online site, immediately send an e-mail cover letter to the hiring manager, and/or people you know within the company to let them know you applied. This extra step can help you stand out from candidates who just applied online. Find out how to track down and contact such people in this Get a Job! post.
The bottom line is this: If you are using the same old message and aren’t getting results, it’s time to improve your cover letter … after all, it can help you Get a Job!
What questions or comments do you have about cover letters? Share them via the Contact Us tab on this blog or on the LinkedIn discussion board that might have brought you here. Thanks for reading. Please let me know if I can be of help to you. Visit the Services page to learn all the ways I can help you. -- Kathy
Like what you've learned?
Receive Getajobtips.com by email or RSS feed and benefit from our services! Also register for our free Wednesday webinars (See the right navigation bar for upcoming webinars).