7 Secrets to a Great Cover Letter

John Krautzel
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If you are ready for a new career challenge, don't overlook the all-important cover letter during your job search. Many applicants view the cover letter as a supplementary item, but it is actually just as important as your resume. A well-written cover letter acts as an advertisement for your job skills and personality, so make sure you spend an adequate amount of time writing a customized letter for each job opening.

One of the biggest cover letter secrets overlooked by applicants is that the first few sentences of a cover letter are the equivalent of the elevator pitch you would give at a business conference or networking event. Use the first paragraph to tell hiring managers who you are, what skills you have and how hiring you can benefit their companies. An elevator pitch typically takes less than 30 seconds to deliver, so make sure you don't keep rambling when you should be transitioning to another topic.

In many cases, the hiring manager isn't the person who reads the cover letters and resumes submitted for a particular job opening. Your cover letter needs to quickly show why you would be an asset to the employer, or you might not make it past an initial review by a human resources coordinator or department assistant. Relate your past achievements to the company's current problems, and then show how you can solve those problems with your skills and knowledge.

Instead of writing a boring list of past job duties or skills, make sure your cover letter highlights specific achievements. If you were recognized for your work by an industry association, tell the hiring manager about your award. This tactic is especially effective if you beat out hundreds of other contenders for a national or regional award. If you don't have any awards to mention, focus on what you have accomplished for your previous employers.

Brevity and accuracy count for a lot in a cover letter. You don't want to write anything that makes the hiring manager raise an eyebrow or wonder if you lack attention to detail. Limit your cover letter to one page unless you are in an industry where lengthy cover letters are the norm. Some employers in academia, for example, require applicants to submit cover letters addressing several topics. It would be impossible to cover all of these topics in a one-page letter. Before sending off your letter, thoroughly check it to make sure there are no mistakes. Make doubly sure your phone number and email address are correct in case the hiring manager wants to contact you.

Paying attention to these cover letter secrets can help you avoid common mistakes and make a good impression on the people who review your application materials. If you are searching for a job, make sure your cover letter highlights specific achievements and shows the employer you are a good fit for the organization.

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