Hundreds of cover letters and resumes are received for most job postings, all claiming, “I can do it!”, “No, take a chance on me!” And they all end up in the discard pile. A cover letter usually gets a very quick glance, not a full read. Its goal is to get the resume read; the resume’s goal is to get the interview.
So here’s a tip to writing a great cover letter that will get your resume read. Read through the job posting and make note of 2-3 things that seem to be the key features of this job. What do you know about the company? Check out its webpage, search recent news articles about the specific company and the industry.
Do you think you can do this job? If so, why? What have you already done that was similar or equivalent? What does your gut instinct tell you the successful person in this new job will need to do? Will they need to turn around a team? Fix slumping sales? Open a new market?
If you were hired for this position, and you were wildly successful, what would be said about you two years in the future? What would you have accomplished? Can you easily imagine it? Does it get you excited?
If not, move on. This isn’t the job for you.
If so, it’s time to write a very direct and targeted cover letter. Do not go on and on about your qualifications. Do not give a lengthy dissertation of your employment history or your skills. Lead with an opening sentence stating that you wish to be considered for the position. Then, start a new paragraph and write two (maybe three) compelling sentences or two that speak directly to those key job features you noted.
Call out what you have already done that make this new job seem just a logical progression of your career. Be specific and interesting enough to cause the recruiter or hiring manager to look at your resume for evidence. Ensure that your resume is written in a way that – yup, there it is – this candidate has done exactly what they claim in the cover letter!
Half of accomplishing something is being able to see it, being able to articulate it. Speak the language of success. Help the hiring manager envision you as the candidate that is going to help the company solve a specific problem or accomplish a specific objective. Make his or her job an easy one.