Getting the Most Out of Your Cover Letter

Nancy Anderson
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As a job seeker, your cover letter is like a marketing piece for your skills and work experience. You need to convince hiring managers that you have what it takes to do the advertised job and fit within the company's culture, which is a difficult task. If you are currently searching for a new job, you should be doing everything you can to improve your chances of making it past the application process.

Following directions is one of the most important things you can do when writing a cover letter. If you don't follow instructions when applying for employment, the recruiter might get the idea that you'll ignore instructions from your boss if you are hired. Some recruiters don't even give additional consideration to an applicant who sends in a cover letter that doesn't conform to the instructions posted in the job advertisement. Read the job posting carefully to find out if the recruiter wants you to include specific information in your cover letter.

Instead of sending the same letter to every potential employer, you should customize your cover letters. A customized letter might include reasons why you're a good fit for the company's culture or a list of skills you've mastered that directly apply to the company's mission. You also need to be aware of what each company needs. Instead of focusing on your desire to earn a great salary or qualify for medical benefits, focus on how your skills and work experience can help the employer make more money, reduce waste or accomplish another achievement.

Don't address your cover letter to the hiring manager or begin with "To whom it may concern." Instead, find out the name of the person hiring for the position. If there is a name in the job advertisement, go to LinkedIn or another professional network to see if you can find a company email address for that person. If the advertisement doesn't contain a name, call the company's human resources department and find out who does the hiring.

Your cover letter should start out with a strong hook: a sentence that convinces the hiring manager to keep reading. Most applicants use the first line to say they have enclosed their applications, but this statement does nothing to influence the hiring manager's first impression of you. Instead of opening with a boring line, use a quote from a reference letter or performance review. The hiring manager is likely to be intrigued enough to read your cover letter from beginning to end.

Whether you're looking for your first full-time job or searching for a new career after decades in the same role, your cover letter is one of the most important documents you'll ever write. By following a few cover letter tips, you can craft an impressive cover letter that is sure to improve your chances of moving forward in the hiring process.

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