A cover letter isn't a career summary; it's a sales pitch. Hiring managers expect you to have relevant skills and experience, but they do not know what benefits you bring to the job until you provide real-world evidence. A well-written cover letter sells an image of how you positively influence your work environment. Employers should feel motivated to act and learn more about what makes you an asset.
Use a Standard Business Letter Format
While every company isn't conservative, you can please the majority of hiring managers by sticking to a universally acceptable format. Put your contact details in a heading at the top of the page where recruiters can easily see it, and list the date, the recipient and the recipient's address below it. Make sure your font is readable and each section is adequately spaced to prevent the document from appearing cluttered. Avoid inconsistencies that take away from the document's professional appearance, such as misaligned paragraphs.
Address the Right Person
A generic greeting is one way to make yourself stand out as a lazy candidate. Make the effort to track down the name of the hiring manager or another recruiter on the hiring team. Check the job posting for a contact person, or review the job description for the title of the person to whom the position reports. Use that information to search online profiles for a manager in the target position. You can also try calling the company for information or locating the department head on the company's website.
Open With a Statement of Interest
Hiring managers are drawn to candidates who are attracted to their specific companies and are not simply settling for any job. Avoid stale and obvious statements that do not hold attention, such as "I am writing to apply for the Dialect Coach position." Instead, provide a concise statement of the reasons why your skills and passion fit the company goals. Consider the following example.
"I never imagined that studying abroad in college would lead me to become a world traveler and teach English as a second language in five countries. Learning the unique sounds and dialects of different languages is like cracking a complex code, which is why I was impressed by how quickly your coaches trained Justin Renner to speak with an accurate Scottish brogue. I asked so many questions about your methods that Renner recommended I contact you about your opening for a Dialect Coach."
This sample opening generates interest by sharing a personal experience and relating it to the company's recent accomplishment. The information conveys the applicant's passion for linguistics and compelling work history. The introduction should also include the position title and where you learned about the open position, especially if you were recommended by an employee or client.
Demonstrate Your Skills
Use one to two body paragraphs to establish clear connections between the job duties and your skills. Keep your paragraphs concise, but include job-related keywords where possible. Tailor your pitch to each employer's needs, and highlight accomplishments that show what you can do for the company.
For example: "I have a Bachelor's degree in linguistics from Smarts University, and my ability to morph into diverse characters with unique speech patterns allowed me to perform in 37 productions while working as a voice-over actor for a dubbing company."
Close With a Call to Action
Reinforce your interest in the position and gratitude for being considered. At the same time, present a clear course of action for yourself and the hiring manager without sounding overly aggressive. Express your desire for an interview, and restate your phone number to encourage the hiring manager to contact you. Include the time when you plan to follow up, such as two weeks.
All recruiters have individual priorities and pet peeves, so you can't always achieve the perfect balance in your cover letter. However, you can increase your chances of success by making it easy for a hiring manager to picture you in the role. Avoid restating everything in your resume, and focus on how the most significant features of your work history provide corresponding benefits to target employers.
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