Turn a basic cover letter into a knockout document by following these 10 steps.
#1: Define the purpose of the letter.
While the majority of cover letters are written in response to an advertised job, there are other reasons for writing a cover letter. Other types of cover letters include: networking, recruiter, direct mail, and pain.
#2: Address it to a real person.
Too many job seekers fail to address the cover letter to an employment decision maker. Sending a letter to “Dear Sir or Madam” or (ugh!!) “To Whom It May Concern” will NOT attract attention. Using resources such as LinkedIn, Google, company websites, and networking should expose the name of an HR contact or the specific area manager. Stand out from your competition by addressing your cover letter to “Ms. Mary Smith, Human Resources Manager” or “Mr. Tony Drew, Plant Manager”.
#3: Portray a consistent message in all your resume portfolio documents.
Create your cover letter, thank you letter, reference page, and associated documents using the same format style, font, font size, and spacing. Sending a consistent message helps define your brand without being “over-designed”, incorporating colour or sent on coloured paper.
#4: Length is a factor.
This isn’t a tweet. Yes, there is discussion revolving around E-Notes replacing cover letters but I remain firm in my belief in the power of a well written, 1 page cover letter.
#5: Clearly define “who” you are.
An HR person or Recruiter tasked to weed through resumes is not going to invest the time in uncovering who you are or what position you are seeking. Define yourself at the top of the resume. Are you a Senior Business Leader? Project Manager? C-Level Executive Expert in Supply Chain Management?
#6: Be a detective.
Even if you’re writing a letter in response to an advertised position, do some investigation work. Dig deep to acquire greater knowledge about the role, the company culture, products, and business metrics. Review their website, corporate profile on LinkedIn – especially the Insights tab of their profile. Network with current and former employees. Learn the good and the bad before going to the next step.
#7: Pinpoint relevant qualifications.
Armed with your research, draw the readers attention on how your qualifications (hard skills, soft skills, experience, and education) parallel the advertised role, their corporate goals, product line, internal culture, customer base, and areas for improvement.
#8: Spotlight achievements.
Emphasize current career accomplishments, with metrics, to validate why you are the perfect fit for your targeted position. Avoid repeating verbatim from your resume.
#9: Close with a call to action.
Simply hitting “send” then waiting idly by the phone or computer for a response from the potential employer is not enough. Be aggressive, ask for the interview! Indicate your intention to follow-up in xx number of days then ensure you actually do what you committed to in the letter.
#10: Proofreading for dummies.
Simply hitting the spell check/grammar check button is not enough. While the differences may be slight, I often see people using US spelling when applying for jobs in Canada. Reset your word processing language to match the country in which you are seeking a job. Be aware of words that sound the same but have different meanings (there, their, they’re). A typical computer spell check will not pick up on the inappropriate use of a properly spelled word.
Thus, I advise you send your resume to a friend, relative, peer. It’s always a good idea to have someone else proofread and provide feedback before sending your cover letter to a potential future employer.
In closing, always accompany your resume with a cover letter, even if an advertised job does list this as a requirement. Why miss out on the opportunity to sell your qualifications in a concise 1 page document? If a cover letter doesn’t excite the reader, why should they feel compelled to review your resume?