When applying for a desired position within a company, it is vitally important that you maximize every opportunity to gain attention over others competing for the position. Your cover letter provides a golden opportunity to get noticed and to provide information about yourself that cannot be easily shared or properly conveyed in your resume. It should generally consist of four parts; the header, introduction, body and closing. To be effective, the information in the cover letter must include the position you are applying for, how you learned about the position, why you should be considered for the position and when you will follow up.
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in creating a cover letter is to use a generic or stock letter. If you do so, you risk your cover letter sounding like everyone else’s which will do nothing for getting you noticed over the others. At worse, you will use the same template as someone else showing the company that you put little effort into the letter and, most likely, you will get your resume tossed out. Remember each position has different requirements that you can focus on to get noticed and, as such, it must receive a cover letter crafted specifically for that position.
Here are several other dos and don’ts to help turn your cover letter into your secret weapon.
- Research, research, research – most people understand that you must research a company before an interview if you have any chance at landing the position. I believe that it should happen before you even apply. By including information about the company in your cover letter, you are showing the hiring manager that you have checked the website, understand the basics of their business and what they require.
- Draw a strong comparison between the requirements for the position and how your accomplishments meet their requirements. Your letter should reference the job posting and showcase the parallels between your skills and the requested skills.
- Keep it short. Your cover letter should be one page at the most. Most recruiters or hiring managers are looking at hundreds of resumes and cover letters a day. Anything more than one page and you have lost their interest.
- Do not negotiate any terms in your cover letter. Negotiations are completed when an offer of employment is made and terms are discussed between employer and future employee. Any attempts to negotiate in the cover letter will likely get your resume tossed to the shredding pile.
- Make sure to address the cover letter to the individual receiving it. Call the receptionist or check the web page for the company to get this information.
- Make sure to highlight what you can bring to the company not what you expect from the company.
The interviewer/employer is looking at the letter as an introduction to you and as a reason to continue on to reading your resume. It should be positive, reflect your personality and, most importantly, show your interest in joining and contributing to the company’s success.
What does your cover letter say about you? Is it your secret weapon?