Part - I
Cover letters are where you make your all-important
first impression. Most often they determine whether a recruiter decides
to continue on and review your resume. You have about 30 seconds to
convey compelling information that will catch and keep the reader's
attention. At their best, stand-out cover letters are strategic,
persuasive, and concise. Ideally, cover letters will achieve three
objectives. They will:
Provide an effective introduction to and
compelling context for your resume.
Engage the reader so that he or she will
want to find out more about you by reviewing your resume and
hopefully, inviting you for an interview.
Help position you as a strong contender
and a viable good fit vis-�-vis the numerous candidates applying for
The best cover letters are focused and targeted. They
don't hint of being a "form" letter that is seeing the rounds as a mass
mailing. When I was recruiting for everything from entry-level positions
to the senior VP level, if I noted that a person did not care enough to
write an original cover letter, I concluded that this was clear evidence
of the person's lack of commitment and savvy. Nowadays, with the huge
volume of talented candidates vying for the small number of jobs, cover
letters are more critical than ever. At every stage in your job search
process, you'll need to do your best and stand out among the sea of
To help you do your best, here are my top-ten tips
talking to the finer points of crafting a winning cover letter. The
first five focus on mechanics and style. The last five tips cover
content and substance. Following the tips is a quick worksheet to help
get you started.
Address letters to a specific person.
Ideally this would be the decision maker/hiring manager, HR manager,
or to whomever you are sending your resume. Make sure to use a title
like Mr. or Ms. and the last name. Typically, it's better to be more
formal at the start. Often you are invited to send resumes to an
address with no name. A creative way to approach this is to use:
"Dear XYZ company manager" or "Dear Hiring Manager." This is better
than the old hat, "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam."
Keep your letter brief. Try for less than
one page. The optimal length is about half a page.
Use clear, professional language. Steer
away from buzzwords, acronyms, jargon, and anything overly personal.
"Talk" to the person. Write your letter as
though you are speaking to the person who is reading it - as if you
were engaging them in a conversation. Let your warmth, enthusiasm,
and energy shine through.
Choose professional-looking paper stock.
Show that you care about your cover letter and resume by paying
attention to the finer details. Use the same paper that you use for
your resume for your cover letter so the two coordinate. White or
cream with a subtle weave or texture is nice. (Of course, e-mailing
cover letters with your resume is quite common these days. In this
case, focus on tips one to four).
Now, let's focus on the content of your
Cover four sections in your letter. Each
section will be covered more in-depth after the tips in the "cover
Do not include details from your resume.
That would be redundant and a waste of the recruiter's time. Craft a
few compelling, overarching statements for your letter that help the
recruiter assess quickly who you are and what you have to offer.
Draw the reader in. Persuade the person to want to read your resume
and find out more about you.
Make every word count. If there's a word
or phrase in there that doesn't prove a point or isn't there to add
solid proof of your strong candidacy, then it's clutter. Streamline
your letter as much as possible.
Ask at least three people to read your letter.
Get their feedback about what they think your content conveys about
you. Is it sending the message you desire? Those who don't know you
well are the best pre-screeners, because they won't cut you any
slack nor will they be influenced by how great a person they know
you are in real life. Take this opportunity to find and fix typos,
grammatical errors, overuse of certain words, anything that sounds
boastful or too good to be true.
Spend quality time on your letter.
Remember that your cover letter is the first impression of you.
Depending on how well you know yourself and your selling points and
how strong a writer you are, you will need a minimum of 30 minutes
to a few hours for each letter. For each job you are going for, be
sure to customize the letter. Write one that is unique to the
company and the role you are looking to fill.