Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Can a Cover Letter Get You a Job?

When you're applying for jobs, writing cover letters can start to feel time consuming and pointless.  You may be tempted to send form letters, or even worse, no cover letter at all.  Don't make this mistake.  Cover letters are important.  While it's true that some managers do ignore them, others pay close attention to them.  When you submit an application, your cover letter could be what sets you apart from your competition.  Here are some tips to help you write a cover letter that might just get you that job:

Customize it for the position and the company.  Meticulously go through the job description and tailor your cover letter to the job.  Look at each line of the requirements and responsibilities and if you have the equivalent skills or experience, make sure that you specifically mention it in your cover letter.  If you are lacking in any of the job requirements, see where you can make a case for your transferable skills.   

Make it personal.  Why do you want to work for this company?  Is there something about the company that you admire?  Do they support the community?  Have they set a standard that you've always looked up to?  Have you or has someone close to you been personally touched by this company?  Showing that you have a strong personal connection to the company is an effective way of distinguishing yourself from the competition.

Ensure that it's error-free and easy to read.  Nothing will get your application thrown out as quickly as a spelling mistake, so be sure to have someone proofread your cover letter before you send it.  It's also important for it to be easy on the eyes.  The manager will could be viewing hundreds of resumes, so they will naturally be drawn towards those that are easy to read.  Keep it to three nicely spaced paragraphs with three or four sentences in each.  Use bullets for your most important points so that they jump off the page. 

Use keywords.  In today's world, a job seeker never knows who will be reviewing their cover letter.  They don't even know whether or not their cover letter will be seen by human eyes.  To save time and money, many employers use automated screeners for the first review.  The manager only sees the applications that pass through the automated screener.  One of the main tools that the automated screeners use is keywords.  If you take the time to ensure that both your cover letter and your resume use the same keywords that were used in the job description, your chances of being called in for an interview increase significantly. 

Follow directions.  Some employers provide very specific instructions about how they want to receive applications.  Make sure that you follow them down to every last detail.  If you submit your application incorrectly, the employer may remove you from consideration.  

When used effectively, your cover letter can be one of the most useful tools in your arsenal.  However, many job seekers waste this valuable opportunity.  You don't know what is going to peak the employer's interest, so never pass up on the chance to prove that you are the best fit for the job.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Renjith Krishnan)

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