Your cover letter provides an introduction and an element of context for your resume. When you apply for a specific job, your resume will do the heavy lifting—this formal document will serve as a fact sheet that can help potential employers skim through your credentials, assess your basic readiness for the job, and compare your profile to those of other candidates. But your cover letter will support your resume the way a frame supports a painting.
Your letter will provide life, dimension and depth to your education and work history. And if you manage to send a strong message, your letter will set you apart from the crowd. Here are a few ways to create a letter that stands out and shines a bright spotlight on the rest of your application.
Start with a smooth opening paragraph.
Don’t begin your letter with an apology (I’m sorry for wasting your time), a corny joke, or a rambling, confused preamble. Just begin with grace and confidence. State who you are, the position you’re applying for, and how you found out about it. If you share a personal connection with your reader, now is the perfect time to say so.
Learn the rules; then break them.
After your opening paragraph, you’ll need to explain more about your background and why you—specifically—should be hired for this job instead of someone else. Most candidates will simply summarize their work history in two paragraphs and then close with a stiff, polite sign-off. That’s fine, but if you want to stand out, tell your story in your own words, on your own terms.
Remove every sentence that applies to most job seekers.
Quickly skim through your letter and take out every sentence that applies to everyone, not just to you. Remove sentences like: “I’m a hardworking professional” and “I really think you should hire me.” Everyone can say this. Focus on the details that set you apart.
Take one more look at your customization.
If you’re like most job seekers, you’re using a template cover letter and tailoring your words for each employer you pursue. This is a fine method, but it’s a recipe for easy typos and mistakes. Take one last look to make sure your letter is addressed to the right company and reflects this company’s specific needs and job requirements.
Read your letter aloud.
This last step might take three minutes, but it can help you catch rough sentences and vastly increase your chances of impressing employers with your wit, professionalism, and fluid writing style.
For more on how to create a cover letter that sends a unique, and memorable message, consult with the job search experts at Merritt Staffing.