Writing a persuasive cover letter is one of your most important tasks as a job seeker. Your letter must capture attention immediately, so don't waste time giving the recruiter irrelevant information. If you don't know what to write, consult the job description. A detailed job description will give you clues about which skills, abilities and certifications you should discuss in your letter. Use the information to write a customized letter for each potential employer.
Before explaining your qualifications, you should open the letter with a professional greeting. Consult the job description to see if it includes the recruiter's full name. If it does, address the letter to the appropriate person and then start writing your opening paragraph. If the recruiter's full name is not in the job description, you don't have to resort to an impersonal greeting such as "To Whom It May Concern." Check to see if the job description includes an email address. If it does, use your favorite search engine or the company's website to find the name of the person associated with that particular address.
The opening paragraph should include information about why you are qualified for the job. Instead of making generic statements such as "I'm a self-starter" or "I have excellent organizational skills," use the job description to find out which skills you should mention. If you are applying for an accounting job, for example, the job description might list phrases such as accounts payable, payroll management, budget reconciliation and accounts receivable. Use these phrases in your opening paragraph so the recruiter will know you have the required skills. If the recruiter is using screening software, including these phrases will also help your letter make it past the initial screening process.
The rest of your letter should convince the recruiter you deserve an interview. Read the job description carefully to determine the best way to approach each recruiter. If the job description lists creativity as a desirable attribute, for example, don't be afraid to get creative. A college student recently applied for an internship by creating a Lego version of herself and using it to create an unusual application package. Because ad agencies value creativity, this was the perfect approach. If you are in a conservative field such as law or medicine, you might want to stick with more traditional methods.
If your cover letter makes a good impression on a recruiter, you have a better chance of being invited to interview with the hiring manager. Make a good impression by using the information in the job description to convince each recruiter you have what it takes to perform the essential functions of the job. Doing so will make the job search process less stressful and more productive.
(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)