I get many questions about cover letters: Do I need one? How long should it be? What should I say? Is it important? Here are some guidelines for decisions about cover letters. Think about the cover letter as an appetizer to a delicious meal: It shouldn’t fill you up, nor duplicate the entre, but it should engage the reader to say, “I’m really looking forward to seeing the resume”.
Be very selective in your wording and use “word-pictures” so the hiring manager can visualize the results you can provide. Nothing sells your ability like results. Describe your uniqueness, like: “Of special interest is my expertise in opening new markets and introducing new products resulting in expanded revenue. My results are a 15% and 22% increase in sales on two different occasions.”
Do your research before sending a resume or cover letter. Research the issues as defined in the position description. Who are you sending your resume to? Get the name and title of the key people. Google them. Learn about potential connection points with you.
Tailor the cover letter to parallel the position description. Identify the job for which you are applying: “Your open position, Supervisor of Accounting, is of great interest to me”. When reading a position description, usually the first 3 to 5 listed responsibilities are the primary ones. Make sure that you show your results in the body of the cover letter.
Make the body of the cover letter short and powerful. Take the top 3 to 5 responsibilities of the position description and describe results you’ve achieved in each one. Example:
Supervised a staff of 3 in accounting for a $5 million business
15.7% cost reduction by installing new computer applications versus part-time staff
12% performance improvement through value analysis and process improvements
Your objective is to get an interview, either on the telephone or in person. Always request the next step in a way that the hiring manager becomes very interested in talking with you. Example: “I’d like to discuss how my skills and experiences can support your objectives and contribute to your results”.
Your cover letter and resume must be written in a way that the hiring manager says, “This is someone I really want to talk to”. The reason they’ll want to talk to you is three-fold:
To find out how you achieved the results you defined in your cover letter and resume
To see if those results are transferable to their organization
To see if you would be a good, comfortable fit in the organization.
You want the hiring manager to want you! Start with your cover letter.
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