An attention-grabbing cover letter is, after all, the first thing potential employers read even before they get to your resume. So if you're a firm believer in "first impressions count" then you'll want to write the best, most convincing cover letter possible in order to compete and stand out from the crowd.
There are time-honored tips for writing an effective, professional cover letter in response to a job posting.
It's easy when you know the simple formula: 1. describe the job you're applying for; 2. enthusiastically tell why you are the best candidate for the job and why your resume is worth reading; and 3. encourage a personal meeting and make it easy for hiring managers to contact you.
Here are some specific do's and don'ts that often result in a winning cover letter:
1. Keep it as personal as possible.
2. If you don't want it to sound like a form letter, never start out with "To Whom It May Concern."
3. Address your salutation (Dear Ms. ____ or Mr. _____) to the person named in the job posting as a contact. If there is no contact name given, start out with a simple "Hello,".
NOTE: Some job experts suggest that you telephone directly the company's human resources department to find out a specific contact name. However, don't get too pushy.
Most human resources professionals don't want their phones ringing off the hook from every job applicant wanting more information! If the contact name isn't forthcoming from an operator or assistant, respond that you understand, thank them and then hang up.
4. In the body of the letter, begin with "I'm writing in regard to your advertisement which recently appeared [NAME THE SOURCE] for [JOB POSITION TITLE].
This makes it easy for them to identify the specific job you are applying for, since most large companies hire for more than one position at time.
5. Begin a second paragraph to peak the reader's interest with a general statement like "In response, I believe that I have the skills, experience, and educational background you are seeking that would make me a valuable addition to your company [or COMPANY NAME]."
6. In the same paragraph, begin using your cover letter as a bridge to your resume, i.e.,
"As you will note in my resume, attached, my experience includes ..."
Now begin to describe your work experience that best matches the requirements listed in the job ad.
Don't repeat exactly what is in your resume, however. Think of your cover letter as a friendly but professional conversation.
7. After briefly describing all your sterling qualities, now it's time to wrap it up. Make it easy for a hiring manager to contact you by starting your closing paragraph with, i.e.,
"I would be happy to make myself available for a personal interview. I can best be reached during regular business hours at [PHONE NUMBER] or contact me anytime via email at [[email protected]].
"I look forward to hearing from you."
8. Finally, if you don't want your resume lost in an e-mail inbox filled with other applicants resumes and cover letters (that the receiver has to print out anyway), put it all down on good quality paper and send a hard copy via snail mail.