Don't Ignore the Cover Letter: 3 Tips for Writing a Powerful One

By Kate Rodriguez

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The cover letter may be on the way out, but it’s not dead yet. In Jobvite’s 2015 Recruiter Nation Survey, 37 percent of recruiters responded that cover letters are still of medium to high importance to them. If an employer requests a cover letter along with your resume – and many still do – you must deliver. But don’t write a weak one assuming the hiring manager will pass over it. Give it your best shot. A powerful cover letter can be as important as a well-written resume. In fact, the better the cover letter, the more likely a recruiter is to look at your resume. So, follow these 3 guidelines to create a persuasive one.

 

1. Show Some Company Knowledge

You should begin a cover letter by briefly informing the hiring manager the position you are applying for. After that, devote some space to sharing something you know about the company and why it makes you interested in working there. The Jobvite survey also points out that 87 percent of recruiters say a candidate’s enthusiasm for the job (as demonstrated during an interview) leaves a lasting impression. So make sure this shines through at the beginning of the letter. If you are being referred by someone inside the company, mention that straight away. Here are a couple of examples:

I enthusiastically submit my application for the position of Product Manager for Digital Strategies at Company X . Your recently-announced decision to launch (specific product) and record for innovation over the past five years really impresses me, and I would like to put my 10 years of experience in product management to work for the Company X team.

Jane Smith of your Media Relations Division suggested I contact you about the Media Relations Strategist position you currently have open. After reading about Company X’s award-winning (specific accomplishment) and hearing first-hand from Jane what a great team you have, I am enthusiastic  about the possibility of contributing my 7 years of relevant experience to the company’s success.

 

2. Address the Job Announcement

Don’t overstuff the cover letter with lists of your skills and accomplishments. That’s what the resume’s for. A cover letter should be relatively brief and should speak directly to qualifications listed in the job announcement. Sometimes job listings are long-winded, so try to group the categories together and address each one. For example, if the announcement says that the candidate must have excellent written communication skills, strong presentation skills and the ability to give clear direction to project team members, address these with one sentence about your experience in communication: “I am a strong across-the-board communicator who is comfortable both delivering large-scale presentations and providing clear direction at the team or individual level.

If the job requires the candidate to have strong problem-solving skills, be a proactive self-starter and be able to deliver to aggressive timelines, include a sentence about how you thrive under pressure: “I embrace challenges, and experience has shown me that I work best when I’m solving problems in a fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment.”

As for technical skills requirements for a job, try to list your accomplishments briefly with some numbers: “During my 5 years of managing corporate marketing operations at Company A, I have increased our client base by 70 percent.”   

 

3. Close with a Strong Call to Action

Just like a sales letter, a cover letter should close with some words that provoke a response or action. Your goal, of course, is to get the reader to look at your resume with interest. You do this by quickly reiterating your strong interest in the job along with a statement of your qualifications. Consider these examples:

I am eager to learn more about how my accomplishments as a top software sales performer can benefit Company X’s exciting future. I will call you shortly to inquire about the possibility of an interview. In the meantime, feel free to request any additional information by reaching out to me at the contacts above.  Thank you for your consideration.

I have attached my resume for your review and would be very interested to discuss how my achievements as a marketing leader in consumer goods can add value to Company X going forward.  I will contact you next week to arrange a meeting. Should you wish to reach me before then, please call me at ….

It’s a given that your cover letter should be double-proofread for grammatical accuracy, and that you should address the manager of the position directly wherever possible. Cover letters really do still matter to many employers, and you ignore them at your peril. Writing them does not have to be hard, either. Think short and focused, and follow the rules above to create one that moves the ball forward.

Photo Credit: Flazingo Photos/Flickr

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