by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
The cover letter is the first opportunity you have to introduce yourself and your extensive skills to potential employers. Make this document work for you by showing employers how you can solve common and unique problems they are facing. Specific strategies in the cover letter will make hiring managers call you!
1) Toot Your Own Horn!
Be sure to include achievements and outstanding accomplishments in the cover letter as well as in the resume. All hiring managers approach the screening process in vastly different ways. By including significant achievements in the cover letter you generate interest in your resume and associate certain skills with your name. Listing accomplishments prompts the interviewer to read more and ultimately contact you.
2) Use Key Words Selectively.
Be cautious not to over-use phrases that have become so common they are practically meaningless. You may choose to use such words as “innovated” but be certain to describe exactly what makes your achievement innovative. For example, “I increased sales 20% by initiating a hands-on mentoring program for new associates”.
3) Managing Challenges.
Employers want loyal personnel who are also able to make things happen. Do you perform well under pressure? Did you identify a procedural problem and devise a solution? Are you uniquely qualified to conduct sensitive negotiations? These are all examples of how you can contribute to the corporation. Describe how you managed these challenges to get the attention of hiring managers.
4) Explaining Employment Gaps.
You can’t hide an employment gap and if you try to do so, most hiring managers will look on that more negatively than the gap itself. Most explanations of employment gaps are best handled in the resume rather than in the cover letter. If you choose to explain an extended employment gap in the cover letter, the hiring manager may not read further. An exception is in the case of additional training. Improving your skills through formal training or an internship can highlight a change in career direction and emphasize your commitment to the profession.
5) Be Clear About What You Want.
End the cover letter with a request for an interview. Including an intention to follow up can also be effective. For example, “I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the many ways I can benefit your organization”. Being clear about your goals in the job search conveys a sense of authority and competence that helps the hiring manager see how you will perform in the position.
Think of the cover letter as an expanded version of your business card. Limited space forces you to be selective about what you choose to include. Emphasize the ways you can benefit the organization to show employers they need you!