Writing a cover letter can be daunting. Where do you start? How long should it be? And just what is the purpose of a cover letter anyway? Read on to learn more about the craft of writing a persuasive cover letter and all the reasons behind why it’s actually a good idea to have one.
The Purpose of Cover Letters
As with all career development advice, the kind you receive will depend on who you talk to. And it’s no different with cover letters. I’ve talked with hiring managers who don’t care for them, and I’ve also worked with professionals who ONLY focus on them.
Personally, I think a good cover letter is what differentiates an average candidate from a fabulous one. In my mind, the person that takes the time to craft a powerful cover letter is someone who will no doubt also spend the time to put that time and thoughtfulness into their job.
The purpose of a cover letter is to tell the employer why you specifically are perfect for the job. It’s a place to expand on the skills you’ve highlighted in your resume, as well as a chance to explain anything questionable a recruiter might “assume” from reading your resume. (Gaps in working, for example, or career changes).
A cover letter is also a chance for you to highlight your writing skills. Being able to write is a fundamental component of success in almost any job, so being able to showcase your talents in this arena is just another “plus” in the column of why they should hire you.
How to Write One
It’s no fun to sit down to a blank computer screen, I get it. Often times people don’t know where to start in regards to writing a cover letter. But if you break it down into specific paragraphs, it gets easier. There is a method to the madness!
Paragraph One – Your Opening
Your cover letter should start with a few sentences on how you heard about the position. Perhaps you were referred by a friend or colleague, or maybe you found the job online or in a newspaper. Be specific here and let your reader know how you found out about the position.
For example, “I am writing in response to your September 15th advertisement on Monster.com, for a Project Analyst.” If you have a personal contact at the company you’re applying to, it’s helpful to mention that here as well.
For example, “I was referred to your organization by a former colleague, Sally Superstar. Sally feels that my background and skill set are a perfect match for the position, and I would be thrilled for the chance to meet and discuss how I might be able to contribute to your company.”
Paragraph Two – Why You’re The Perfect Person for the Job
Paragraph two is all about selling your talents, and showing just how your background aligns with the needs of the organization. Your experience is already listed on your resume, so this isn’t a place to regurgitate those facts. Rather, spend some time here expanding on why you’re the right person for the position.
Example, “As you will see from my attached resume, I was promoted to lead sales consultant within my first six-months at XYZ Company. While holding this position I converted over 30% of our base leads and increased quarterly revenue over X%.”
Paragraph Three – The Closing
This is your chance to finish strong and end on a high note. Remember, a cover letter is space for you to show how you are the best person for the position (NOT a list of all the ways in which you will benefit from the job).
Use this space to reiterate how you can hit the ground running in this new position, and the ways in which you can specifically contribute. Thank the employer for their time and consideration, and don’t be shy about letting them know just when you will be following up with them.
Example: “I am confident that I can contribute my skills to ABC Company and make an immediate impact. I appreciate your time and consideration, and will follow up on October 15th to schedule an interview.” That’s it you’re done!
Crafting a persuasive cover letter doesn’t need to be daunting. It’s all about showcasing your skills and letting them know just exactly why YOU are the best person for the job. Happy writing!