Winning Cover Letter Strategies

By Erica Tew, CPRW

Most people are unsure of how to write an effective cover letter, but there are a few easy tips that can assure you’re submitting a great marketing tool that will complement your resume.

General “Rules”

The two rules of thumb I typically use when crafting a cover letter go hand in hand.  Avoid overusing the personal pronoun “I” and be employer-oriented.  If you reference yourself in every other line, chances are, you are not telling the employer what you can offer them and how you would be able to help them succeed.  Avoiding “I” in cover letters also strengthens the overall writing, which is an added bonus.

Contact Information

Your contact information header should mirror your resume’s header.  This small detail adds a level of professionalism and makes your documents appear like matching stationery.

Addressee

Get the hiring manager’s name, position title, and company address so your documents don’t get left behind while someone runs around trying to find “To Whom It May Concern” or the dreaded “Dear Sir or Madam.”  If you don’t know where to find this information, CT’s Job and Career Connection company search  can provide the names of company owners, human resources managers, or any person that typically has an influence in the hiring decisions.  You can also try to call the company and speak with a receptionist or administrative assistant to see if they can provide you with a name and title for the hiring manager.

First Paragraph

There are few opportunities to be bold.  If you don’t grab their attention right away, your cover letter may be overlooked.  Use the first line to say what you have to offer.  Talk about the industry.  Your resume’s profile statement may already have a very marketable opening line, so this can be reworded if needed.

If there is a specific opening, state the job title you are applying for in the first or second line.  This could be formatted in bold if you want to ensure its visibility.  Add where you found this position as well, whether it was online, in a newspaper, or from a referral.  For example,

“As a Retail Manager with a proven record of developing and implementing sales initiatives that increase company profit, I would like to discuss my contributions if hired as a Regional Sales Manager for ABC Industries.”

Attention-grabbing (provides overall value of developing and implementing profit-increasing initiatives,) employer-oriented (contributions to the company and position,) and stating the job title (in bold.)

If you were referred by someone to apply, state their name and position title in this section, and reference your attached resume.

Second Paragraph

The second paragraph is where you can state more specifically how your experience or accomplishments could be an asset to the company to which you are applying.  For convenience, many employers prefer bulleted lists, as they are easier to read while quickly scanning.  If you choose to use a bulleted list, preface the list with a statement that introduces the list as skills, qualifications, or past achievements.  3-5 bullet points would be best.  Adding too many bullets will make your cover letter seem crowded very fast.  Make use of formatting enhancements such as bolding and h e a d l i n e    s p a c i n g to ensure visibility and white space for maximum readability.

Based on research, state something you know about the company that you find impressive, exciting, or appealing, to show you not only want the job, but are knowledgeable about the company culture as well.  You can practice your Google-fu skills to find the employer and get this information.  An example for introduce a bulleted list using these techniques-

“In NewsWeekly you stated there is a need to expand your mobile department.  My experience in content management and programming languages can help your company achieve its goals.  A brief overview of my industry knowledge and qualifications follow:”

Third Paragraph/Closing

In this last paragraph, make an effective call to action.  Stating that you will call the employer is an assertive way to close.  If that feels too bold, you can say the employer may call you and provide a cell phone or email address in the paragraph.  For example,

“Should you find my qualifications of interest, please contact me at 555-555-5555 or by email at johnsmith@someemail.com.”

Always thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration, and if mailing, be sure to hand-write your signature.

You will always have to personalize each cover letter- don’t use generic templates.  Some of these tips with research may give you the winning edge to land your next interview!

As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the Comments section below. 😀

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About ericatew

Erica Tew is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and career advisor who creates workshops and programs for CT Job Seekers. She is a manager of CT Jobs Chat, a LinkedIn networking group for job seekers, recruiters, and career counselors. Follow her on twitter @ericatew .

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