Pair Your Powerful Resume with a Great Cover Letter
Every great resume deserves a great cover letter.
A cover letter is crucial because it's the first thing
the hiring manager sees. And you only have seconds to
grab his or her attention. So, you have to make sure
the cover letter stands out from the dozens--or maybe
even hundreds--of others that cross the hiring
manager's desk each week.
You might ask, why bother at all with a cover letter?
If I only have a few seconds to grab a recruiter's
attention, why not do it with a resume? The answer is,
that even the best resume is a rather dry listing of
accomplishments and abilities. By definition, it's a
But with a cover letter, you have an opportunity to let
a little bit of your personality shine through and to
talk directly to the hiring manager. Plus, it's your
chance to show off a little of what you know about the
company and to tell why you're interested in the job.
Use the steps we've outlined here and you'll be well on
your way to a dynamite cover letter.
Tip #1: MAKE A CONNECTION
There are 3 basic parts to making a connection:
1. Draft a strong opening paragraph.
2. Show your personality.
3. Research and target your audience.
* Draft a Strong Opening Paragraph.
You must capture the hiring manager's interest
immediately. The best way to do this is with a dynamic
opening sentence and paragraph. Be sure to refer to the
position you're vying for, and state why you are
qualified for the job.
Remember to frame your statements in terms of how you
can benefit the company, not the other way around.
If you can, mention the name of someone the hiring
manager knows and respects. For example, you could say,
"Joe Smith recommended that I contact you about your
opening for a shift manager." Or, "My associate, Janet
Brown, told me such wonderful things about Jones
Company that I couldn't wait to send you my resume."
Rhetorical questions that make the hiring manager think
can also work well. This should be a question that can
lead into some way that you can benefit the company.
For example, "Are you struggling with the rising costs
of [fill in the blank]? I can cut your costs by 30%.
Beginning with a quote is another good way to grab the
reader's attention. Although you must choose your quote
wisely. And then you have to make sure you transition
into the rest of your letter gracefully.
It's also important to know what tone to set in this
opening paragraph. In some cases, this may depend on
the industry in which you're trying to get a job. For
example, a friendly, informal tone may work well if
you're applying to a small, entrepreneurial company.
While a more formal, professional tone might work
better for a large law firm or corporation. On the
other hand, a bold statement might work really well if
you're seeking a leadership or sales position.
* Show Your Personality
While your writing style should be matched to your
audience to some extent, as explained above, it should
also reflect your personality. Start to give your
prospective employer a sense of who you are and what
* Research and Target Your Audience
You want to sell the hiring manager on the belief that
you're a great fit for the company. The only way to do
this is if you know enough about the company to
understand what makes it tick. Be sure you've taken the
time to learn a bit about their mission, their
products, their history, and their goals for the
future. This will help you communicate hiring you will
Always address the cover letter to a specific person.
Take the time to call the company if necessary to learn
the name of the person doing the interviewing. This, in
itself, says a lot about your initiative and attention
Tip #2: SELL YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Your cover letter should sell you as the product. So,
make sure you know what skills the company needs and
then describe how you have what they are looking for.
Pick one or two of your best accomplishments or
abilities, and highlight them in your letter. Sure,
they're listed on your resume too, but this tactic
makes sure the hiring manager sees them right away.
If it makes sense to list a few accomplishments, then
list them as bullets. This will draw the reader's
attention to that section of the letter right away. And
after all, what you have to offer is the most important
part of this letter.
Tip #3: CLOSE THE LETTER
Powerfully Ideally, you want to leave your reader
hungering to know more about you. But you also want to
be proactive. So, rather than ending your letter with
the common statement, "I look forward to your call,"
say you'll call them in a few days to arrange a time to
meet. If you don't have a phone number, and couldn't
find on during your research, then try to provide an
incentive for them to call you.
Some people say they're going on vacation or out of
town after a certain date and ask to meet prior to
that. Others say they'll be in an area at a certain
date and time and ask for the interview during that
period. Be creative, but make it as real--and company-
oriented--as you can.
Tip #4: MAKE IT PLEASING TO THE EYE
Finally, it's important that your cover letter be easy
to read and professional looking.
Kathi MacNaughton, a freelance writer and editor, has
years of management and recruitment experience. For
tips & advice on writing powerful resumes & cover
Copyright 2004 Kathi MacNaughton. All rights reserved.