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From Mediocre to Magnificent: Simple Steps to Create a Powerful Cover Letter
As your resume nears completion, and with only a few final touches to be added after what may seem to have been many hours dedicated to the creation of this career-marketing document, it can be tempting not to bother with the development of a cover letter. In fact, I am often asked if it is at all necessary to send a cover letter with your resume, after all, the resume contains all of the relevant information. My response to this question is always a resounding ‘yes’; it is vital to send a cover letter with your resume, as the letter forms an integral part of your career-marketing package.
So what is a cover letter and what is its purpose? A cover letter (also referred to as an application letter) is a document that accompanies your resume in response to an advertised position. The main purpose of this document is to introduce you, while generating such interest that the reader will not only continue reading your resume, but also be compelled to call you in for an interview.
Sounds simple enough, however developing such a letter requires thought, strategy and skill. Similarly, with the AIDA marketing approach, you are aiming to grab the reader’s Attention; create Interest; transform the interest into Desire (they want/need your expertise); and desire into Action (call you in for an interview).
A cover letter should be tailored to each position you are applying for in order to portray a message specific to the stipulated criteria. Do not develop a standard cover letter with gaps that you photocopy and fill in by hand prior to sending off your resume. This demonstrates extreme laziness on your part in that you have not bothered to dedicate any time in developing a letter for that particular role.
When creating a cover letter, ensure you devote as much time as you did in the development of your resume. This is the first document the reader views; it’s your initial handshake and introduction and, unfortunately, if it fails to captivate interest your resume will probably not be given the attention it deserves. Similarly, as with your resume, your letter is aiming to position yourself way above your competitors by highlighting your most notable accomplishments and experience that directly relates to the position.
Ensure your letter is succinct and incorporates hard-hitting dynamic wording to grab and contain the reader’s attention. Perhaps while researching the company (via its website) you will be able to incorporate some of this information, particularly if you can contribute your skills directly to a particular area.
Some cover letter pointers:
A cover letter should be no longer than one page, and must contain your correct contact details. Develop your letter on a personalized letterhead, which will certainly make the document aesthetically pleasing.
Do not repeat your entire resume contents in the letter, but rather notable accomplishments that pertain directly to the position being applied for.
Format is extremely important and it is wise to ensure you use the same font as your resume for continuity. Try to utilize the same paper for the cover letter as you have used for your resume. Do not use brightly colored/luminescent paper with the thought that this will make your document stand out – use professional looking stationery.
Make sure that you address the letter to a particular person. If no name has been provided, ring and enquire to whom the application should be sent, as this will demonstrate initiative on your part, (or laziness if you don’t).
Remember that this is a business letter, so keep in mind business written communication etiquette, particularly with titles, salutations, and closing phrases.
Most important of all is to edit the document to ensure your grammar is correct and that it does not contain any spelling errors.
Try to avoid the standard opening paragraph that goes like this:
“I am writing in response to your recently advertised position and enclose my letter for your consideration.”
This is such a standard opening that it will certainly not catch the reader’s attention.
Add some dazzle by developing a strong opening such as:
“With over 15 years’ of leadership and staff management experience I believe I can execute strategies that will continue to optimize staff performance and retention, and reflect positively on bottom-line performance.” or,
“Directing state-of-the-art communications systems to support high-growth industries is my expertise …”
By adding some color to your introductory paragraph it is bound to grasp the reader’s attention.
The following paragraph(s) should portray further transferable skills specific to the role in order to demonstrate your personal overall value, which you are offering. Notable accomplishments that may be directly relevant to the role may be introduced in bullet form in order to break up long paragraphs.
Your closing paragraph should concisely reiterate the value you can bring to the organization. Request an opportunity to meet with them to provide further opportunity to elaborate your ability to contribute to their organization and thank them for their consideration.