When searching for a job, you need to think about more than just your resume. The cover letter completes your self-marketing job search package. The purpose of a cover letter is to provide potential employers with additional information about your skills, abilities, and experience — and tell them why you are uniquely qualified for the job. A well-written cover letter showcases your communication skills, is concise, and does not use overly formal language. When crafting your letter, there are three types to consider.
- Matching – This kind of letter ties the requirements of the position directly to your qualifications.
- Targeted – This type of letter is used when you know the company you are applying to and can therefore highlight your specific qualifications in relation to their company.
- Referral – If you have been referred by someone who knows the employer, then this type of letter is a good choice.
If you are just beginning your career, then a targeted letter is the best place to start because it is straightforward. Your goal is to sell yourself and yet, be conscious of the employer’s time. Make sure to show your personality without being over the top, and provide additional insight not found on your resume.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when crafting your targeted cover letter:
Content is king
When thinking about writing the content of your cover letter, you may be thinking “What’s in it for me? What does this employer have to offer me? Why should I work for them?” While these questions are all part of an important line of self-assessment to consider after you receive a job offer, now is the time to focus on writing your letter. Consider using reverse psychology — because employers are also asking themselves “What’s in it for me?” They are wondering what you can bring to their organization if they hire you. Employers want to know what your motivation is for applying and if they believe you will fit in with their organization’s culture and values. How can you show this in a cover letter? Make sure to do your research about the organization and the position. Connect the dots for them; explain why you are interested in them. Content is king so make your words count.
*Refer to the middle paragraph in the sample cover letter provided for an example of how to draw a direct connection between what the employer is seeking and what you can do for them.
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Another thing to consider is incorporating some of the keywords found in the job description. The best place to find keywords is to focus on the required qualifications section. They are important because they directly tie to the skills sought. Also, online recruitment systems utilize keywords found in the job description to search for those same keywords in applicant resumes and cover letters. Utilize them in a way that has impact and matches your qualifications.
Visual appeal and accuracy matter
It may seem obvious, yet I can’t tell you the number of cover letters I have seen that contain spelling errors and use poor grammar. Make sure to double-check your writing! Formatting your letter to be visually appealing is also important. A left-justified letter with space between paragraphs is clean and easy to read. And don’t forget to match the font used in your cover letter with the same font choice used on your resume. Some good font choices include Calibri, Arial, and Verdana because they read well online and have a clean, professional look to them. Your goal here is to present a cohesive looking package that shows the hiring manager your attention to detail. Not taking the time to do this could leave the employer questioning what kind of attention you would give to the job if hired.
Subjectivity matters, too
My final piece of advice about cover letters is to remember that they are subjective. Some employers require a cover letter and use it as a way to gauge your written communications skills and attention to detail — while other employers prefer not to receive or read a cover letter at all. So, what should you do? It’s best to have a cover letter prepared that is customized for the position you are seeking. Once you are applying for a particular position, follow the instructions provided. If they ask for one, be sure to provide one. If they don’t ask, then don’t include one. Why? If they don’t want one and you include it anyway, you risk that employer’s subjectivity that you didn’t follow directions.
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