Everything You Need to Know About Cover Letters

John Krautzel
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Some companies require a cover letter to accompany a resume, while others may view this type of correspondence as optional. While HR departments may have different opinions about these letters, it never hurts to send one anyway if you want to be sure you make a good first impression. Check out these tips for writing a dynamite introduction to your abilities, passions and accomplishments.

Follow Instructions

Read the directions of the job posting thoroughly. If the employer requires a cover letter, then, of course, send one. If the letter is optional, write one to show you go the extra mile.

Tailor the Verbiage

A template for a cover letter works great to get the backbone of what you need, but you must still tailor this document to the specific position you're applying for if you want to get noticed. A generic letter goes to the trash pile.

Research the Company

Add vital details to your correspondence after researching the company. Go to LinkedIn to find the name of the hiring manager. Examine the company's website to find the mission statement, recent press releases and any relevant product pages. Search the headlines to see if the business made any recent news.

Start With Your Skills

The very first sentence should tout your skills that can solve a problem the company is experiencing. If you came across this job due to a referral, mention your contact's name in this first sentence at some point because that lets HR know you have networking and people skills.

Answer One Question

After you talk about a great skill you have, answer the question, "Why do you want to work for this company?" Relate a story in your cover letter about why you developed a passion for the business, why you're a perfect fit or why your personality meshes with the employer.

Hard Skills

Devote the second paragraph to an explanation about how your skills correlate to what the business wants. Technical know-how, industry-related skills and specific processes work best here as opposed to soft skills. You want to quantify some skill based on your previous experience. Do not repeat info from your resume, because the employer wants to see something new in the letter.

Pain Letter

Instead of a traditional cover letter, consider writing a pain letter. Rather than talking about your hard skills or your perfect fit, spend two to three paragraphs solving a recent problem of the company. Start by congratulating the company on a piece of news, and then surmise a pain point within the company that may lead to a problem. The pain could stem from rapid growth, which requires more staff to keep up with more customers, or a merger that introduces all kinds of new dynamics. It also helps to show how your skills can help move the company forward. No matter which format you choose, close the letter with a call to action that invites a more in-depth conversation in an interview.

A cover letter is a great tool to use to get HR to notice you outside of your standard resume and application, and also lets you tell hiring managers what you can do for a company in a way that a simple introduction can't. In the process, you also help set yourself apart from other candidates.

Photo courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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