Article: Cover Letters – Your First Opportunity to Sell Yourself

Cover Letters
Your First Opportunity to Sell Yourself

Want to stand out from the crowd of job hunters hoping to get your dream job? Then make sure your cover letter is fantastic. It’s your first opportunity to create a good impression, so make it count.

A cover letter is not the place to ramble on about your experience and education. Instead, your cover letter should explain, as specifically as possible, how you meet the employer’s needs.

Contrary to what many people think, a cover letter is not designed to get you the job. It’s asking to be considered. It’s your way of throwing your hat in the ring. Your call-to-action is to request an interview.

Think of the cover letter as a marketing tool used to move your customer one step closer to buying the product – you! That means you’ll want to focus on benefits. It should answer questions such as:

    • How will the employer benefit from hiring you?
    • How will you give the company a competitive advantage in the marketplace?
    • What do you bring to the table in terms of skills and experience?
    • What differentiates you from all other job hunters hoping for this position?

In addition to the information your cover letter provides, employers will look upon it as an indicator of your writing skills. Therefore, you want to be sure your cover letter is well-written. Use clear, concise English. Make sure the letter looks and sounds professional. Be sure to proofread your work. You’d hate to lose out on a potential job simply because of a typo.

A cover letter is a way to indicate formal application for a specific position. For that reason, it is often called a letter of application and is usually accompanied by a resume. A cover letter has three main elements:

1. Introductory paragraph. The first paragraph mentions the position you’re interested in and how you learned of the job opening. This paragraph is typically two to four sentences long.

2. Body. Use the middle two paragraphs to toot your own horn. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. Tell the employer why you’re the perfect candidate for the job and mention at least three of your strong points. Make them want you.

One good technique is to use the first paragraph of the body to explain your work experience and the second to describe your educational credentials. Also, don’t forget to mention any personal qualities that will appeal to the employer, such as your natural enthusiasm, your positive attitude or your attention to details. Choose adjectives that are applicable to the position you want. The body of your cover letter is to make a connection to the employer by drawing a clear correlation between your skills and the needs of the company.

3. Closing. Remember, the whole purpose of the cover letter is to obtain an interview. The closing paragraph is where you “ask for the sale.” Clearly state that you’d like to arrange an interview. Mention how and where you can be reached, or better yet, be proactive and state that you’ll call the employer on a specific day to see if a meeting can be arranged. The tone of this section should be polite yet explicit.

Once you have your basic cover letter written, you can probably adapt it to many jobs that you want to apply to. Your cover letter should always be customized to the specific position.

When should you send a cover letter? Every single time you are applying for a job. Sending a resume without a cover letter is passing up an opportunity to present your special qualities and put your resume in context, drawing attention to your strengths and best attributes, while revealing a bit of your personality.

Want to see some sample cover letters to help you get started on yours? The book, Job Hunting in a Tough Economy, has plenty. Plus, you’ll get many more tips and strategies to assist you in your job search. Learn more about the book here.

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