Quick tips for a killer cover letter

cover letters, creating effective cover letters,
Improving your cover letter can
greatly improve your job prospects.
Recruiters typically spend less than a minute looking at your cover letter. So why bother writing one? 

Because a strong cover letter can immediately convince recipients to consider you. 

Here’s how you can create a killer cover letter that brings results:

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 the person's 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. Using a woman's first name is also an acceptable alternative if you do not know if she uses Mrs., Miss, Ms. or Dr. before her name.

If you don’t know the person's 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,


Include the title of the position, the company name and where you heard about it in 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.

Share why you are passionate about the company or its products. 

Example to a plant science nonprofit: “I am particularly interested in your organization because I am passionate about plant science discoveries and have worked in the plant science industry throughout my career. 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.”

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). 

Example: "Bob Brown, who serves as Director of Logistics for your company, has told me repeatedly that I should look into XYZ Corp. because of the tremendous progress that you are making in curing cancer. I would certainly relish being part of such important work."   

Sum up why you are the best person for the position. Don’t repeat your resume verbatim, but 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 extensive corporate communications, marketing, and public relations experience working for IMPRESSIVE COMPANY NAME and in the RELEVANT INDUSTRY. I also have expertise in counseling executives and developing winning communication strategies that could greatly benefit XYZ Corp.”


Match your cover letter to the job description. Specifically relay how well your background matches the core job requirements and how you have worked for similar companies and industries. Also state that you have experience handling 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.

Be creative (but not obnoxious!) Seek to set yourself apart from other candidates. For example, tell a story that portrays your expertise in the best light.

Example:
“What intrigued me most about your communications manager position is the diverse 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, NAME, you do it all extremely well." What struck me about his kind words, was that he zeroed in on what it is I offer that makes me an excellent match for this position … versatility …
[SEGUE TO WHY YOUR BACKGROUND MAKES YOU UNIQUELY QUALIFIED].


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.

Include a testimonial. For example, use one of your LinkedIn recommendations to reinforce your qualifications.

Respond to salary requirement requests. If the job description asks for salary requirements, decide how to respond using these tips. If the job posting doesn’t ask, don’t tell your salary requirement or history, lest it disqualify you before you get an interview.

Draw attention to your qualifications. Create a table within your cover letter listing the main job’s requirements in the left column and your related qualifications in the right column to show how perfect you are for the job.


cover letter, t-letter, creating an effective table cover letter, creating a t-letter,


Include your contact information and the best times/ways to reach you.
Provide your main 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. Also include your LinkedIn profile url, which you can find just under your picture on your LinkedIn profile. Customize your profile url.

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.”


Proof your cover letter! Recruiters regularly reject candidates due to poor writing and typos. If your writing or proofing skills are weak, hire someone to draft a standard message for you that you can tweak for each opening. If you do use such a standard message, make sure that you have properly changed all relevant parts of the letter that should change. For example, be sure to change 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!

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 or to invite the recipient to visit your LinkedIn profile so they can learn more about you. 

Example: 
P.S. Feel free to visit my LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/namelastname/, where you can view my 10 LinkedIn recommendations and 400+ skills endorsements.

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 recruiter, 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 Getajobtips.com post.

The bottom line: Don't use the same old message in your cover letter. Improve it to get better results!

Share your cover letter tips and horror stories to help others write a killer cover letter! What tricks have you tried? -- Kathy

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