As a job seeker, your goal for a cover letter is simple: you want others to see just how much your skills match the position you are applying to, but you also want them to get a flavor for your personality. While a good portion of the cover letter is about you and the value you can bring, it also needs to align with the company’s focus and needs and explain how you match those needs.
In today’s times, with only seconds to grab the reader’s attention with your resume, you should always include a cover letter. I am a proponent of a cover letter that is 250 words or less because chances are your cover letter is being read on a smartphone, so it must be succinct and to the point.
Not everyone applying to the position will submit a cover letter. They will buy in to the idea that not all cover letters are read by prospective employers. What if the employers you are sending your resume to are the ones who do read cover letters? How can you be certain that your cover letter won’t be read?
Better to be prepared than be one of the applicants whose resume is tossed in the trash because you didn’t attach your cover letter. The best part about a cover letter is that once you have the skeletal framework, you can re-use the same cover letter for other job applications while simply tweaking a few things. Here are some helpful tips to get you started on creating a master cover letter.
Open With Intrigue and a Punch
Greet your reader by the correct salutation, followed by the last name. Remember, do not address the person on a first-name basis unless you already know that person. If you do not know the name of your reader, and you haven’t been able to locate him or her on LinkedIn, then it is suggested to write “Dear Hiring Manager.” In my case, it was “Dear Hiring Partner.”
Your high school English teacher always said, “The opening paragraph of your essay must grab the reader’s attention.” Grab the prospective employer’s attention by explaining why you are pursuing this position. Don’t be afraid to list some core competencies that evidence your abilities and how they align with the role and needs of the company. Consider what intrigued you about the job posting and the company. Is there something in particular that made you want to apply to work for that company? If so, state it clearly from the start.
Provide Some Examples of Your Career Wins and Connect Them to the Company’s Needs
Once you have introduced yourself to your reader, or, as I like to call them, your future employer, it’s time to provide a few sentences of your biggest career wins and the career trajectory that points to those wins. Look at your resume. What sales goals have you met? Have you been promoted? Look to the key achievements and results that have shaped your roles.
This paragraph should define some examples of the work performed and results achieved. It should connect the reader. Cover some key competencies that you feel define your success and make the reader want to head over to your resume, but also answer the question of what you can do for the company, and how your background as a whole can help the company progress in its goals and objectives. Maybe you are switching careers or to another area of law. Perhaps you handled a research project that is now key to the position you are applying to. These are all important items for consideration. Do you have recommendation letters that have noted your ambition, dedication or supervisory role? State those achievements and how they can meet the goals of the prospective employer.
Request a Meeting and Appreciate the Consideration
Like any good essay, your closing paragraph should re-state your thesis: your interest in the company and what you have to offer. Close the letter by advising that your resume is enclosed and ask to set up a meeting to discuss your qualifications. Always thank them for their interest in you.
Utilizing the above structure, you can easily craft a creative master cover letter to use for each job you apply to while also tweaking it slightly for a different role.
Wendi Weiner, creatively known as The Writing Guru, is an accomplished attorney, former college writing professor, 4X certified executive resume writer and career transition coach, and award-winning career expert.