If you are like most job applicants, then you may find writing a good cover letter more difficult than writing your resume. Most of the personally written cover letters that I see are uniformly mundane; what you want to do is make the cover letter so interesting that the recruiter looks forward to reviewing your resume.
Since you want to capture the reader’s interest early on, starting the first paragraph with “I” is going to be less effective than starting with what the employer is most interested in: “You.” An interesting introduction that focuses on some recent industry news or a specific need the employer has, will draw the recruiter’s attention. What are the current marketplace challenges? What skills will that employer be looking for in the position you are applying for? If you have a job description in hand, draw from the information provided to ignite the reader’s interest.
By tying your specific strengths or achievements to what you mentioned in the first paragraph, you let the reader know that not only are you cognizant of the employer’s (or her customers’) concerns, you have the “right stuff” to meet the employer’s needs.
If you feature quantifiable results on your resume, you will want to mention those on your cover letter. List 3-5 high-impact bulleted items. Rather than repeating exact verbiage from your resume, reorder or rephrase statements to add interest without repetition.
Avoid stating that you have a B.S. from Washington University (or wherever) because that same information appears on your resume. Provide new information that paints a three-dimensional picture for the reader. This can be information related to how you approach your work, positive comments you may want to share regarding performance reviews, subject matter expertise you’ve developed or something that you’re known for in the workplace— like earning a reputation for going above and beyond in customer service. If you are willing to travel or relocate, that should be stated towards the end of your letter. If you expect the reader to hold your inquiry in confidence because you don’t want to jeopardize your present position, you definitely want to mention that, and adding that comment as a P.S. will emphasize the point.
Don’t forget to mention the position you are applying for – either as part of a Re: line two spaces below the inside address (above the salutation) or somewhere in the body of the letter. You also want to mention that your resume is attached or enclosed. If you believe you are an exceptional match for the position’s requirements, don’t be afraid to say so.
Now the closing. Confidently tell the employer what action you want him or her to take, and that must go beyond “hopeful.” Use words that express your positive expectation of a response and/or your intention to follow up—and then do so. Remember: the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Confidence, enthusiasm and persistence never go out of style (especially if you’re in sales or customer service.)
One page is long enough, and “Sincerely” is the appropriate close.
Ellie Vargo, MRW, CCMC