If you have trouble writing cover letters, one thing you don't want to do is give up and not send a cover letter at all. With very few exceptions, you should almost always send a letter explaining your qualifications and telling the hiring manager why you deserve a shot at the job. Instead of using a boring template, follow these tips to create a customized cover letter for each potential employer.
Hanna DeBruhl, a career coach, refers to the cover letter as the "wicked stepmother" of the resume, mostly because writing cover letters presents such a challenge for job seekers. Some applicants avoid sending cover letters, while others hurt their chances of being hired by sending lackluster letters that don't do a good job of explaining their qualifications. A few applicants even send the exact same cover letter to every potential employer, without any regard for the requirements of the position.
An easy way to customize your cover letter is to do a little research about each company. Find out if the company manufactures its own products, distributes products produced by another company, or offers services to consumers or other businesses. When you write your cover letter, show the hiring manager how your background relates to the company's offerings. If the company produces software, your customized cover letter should highlight any experience you have in the software industry.
Don't assume the hiring manager is going to read every word of your cover letter. Most hiring managers skim letters until they find one that stands out from the rest. Put the most important information in the first paragraph so that the hiring manager is sure to see it. If you have several years of experience in a particular industry, explain how your experience can benefit the organization. For example, the company might not have to spend as much money training you or sending you to workshops because you have so much experience under your belt.
Instead of using the same format for every cover letter, try something new. Career expert Liz Ryan recommends sending "pain letters" to employers in your target industry. If you choose to use this format, open your letter by congratulating the reader on a company achievement. Read articles and online press releases to see if you can find something worth mentioning in your letter. Do some research to find out what pain points the organization is dealing with, and then tell the reader about a time you helped overcome a similar challenge. End the letter by asking to set up a meeting or phone call.
Your cover letter doesn't have to be boring, so don't feel obligated to stick with the same old format. Instead, focus on writing a letter that convinces hiring managers they should review your resume and take a chance on interviewing you.
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