Writing a Cover Letter that Stands Out

Cover letters are often a client’s first introduction to an employer, and should always be included with a job application. Like the resume, tailor the cover letter to the position announcement. The goal of a cover letter is to entice an employer to review the client’s resume and to secure an interview.

Here are five tips on how to structure and write a cover letter that will lead to an interview:

  1. Start off on the right step

The header on the cover letter should be a replica of that on the resume. A matching header gives the two documents an added professional look. These two documents should be submitted together. Be sure to include the date, candidate’s name and contact information.

  1. The greeting

Avoid nameless salutations such as, dear sir. It might take a little research but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score major brownie points. Never start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’

  1. The structure and body of the letter

Limit the letter to one page. Try to keep the cover letter to a maximum of three paragraphs. Keep it simple and clean, not cluttered. Structure your letter so that each part achieves a particular goal. Try not to use the same wording that is on the resume.

  • Paragraph 1: Have a strong opening statement that make it clear why the applicant wants the job and why he is right for it. Include the job title and how the candidate learned about the opening (e.g., company’s website, an employee referral, job search site).
  • Paragraph 2: Describe the candidate’s qualifications. A cover letter should show what she could bring to the company and the position. Give the job listing a careful read and see where the candidate’s experience best matches up. Then, reveal why the applicant is a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why she has chosen the employer or job. Briefly summarize the applicant’s talents, experience, and achievements. Use specifics. For example:
    • Office manager cover letter: I currently serve as office manager for a busy financial services firm, (XYZ Company), where I supervise a team of 12 employees and coordinate all office functions. My strengths in improving office systems and building a top-performing clerical team have earned repeat commendations and formal recognition from the company CEO.
    • Chef: Classically trained at the renowned XYZ Institute, I earned an AOS in culinary arts and mentored under celebrity chef Bill Jones as a sous chef for 3 years. Following this experience, I held executive chef positions within 4-star restaurants for a leading hospitality group and spent the past two years as a chef on luxury yachts.
    • IT: Key strengths include: High-volume ticket management. In my current position as helpdesk support specialist for XYZ Co, I handle 1,725+ tickets per month, fully resolving and documenting issues for future reference.
  • Paragraph 3: Follow up information. Mention that the resume is enclosed and indicate a desire to meet with the employer. Thank the employer for their consideration.
  1. Want an error-free and perfectly written cover letter? Then you must edit!

Make sure the letter has no spelling, typing, or grammatical errors. Job applicants are frequently passed over because of such mistakes. Take some time away from the document and return with fresh eyes, ready to edit. It’s always better to have a second person proofread the text as well.

Bonus Tip: Save both the resume and cover letter in the following format [last name, first name document title] for example [Redford, Nicole Resume]. Hiring managers like to be able to quickly find and access documents as they often receive dozens to hundreds of resume for any open position.

Need a template for a cover letter? Start with this one from CareerOneStop!

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Cover Letters: Yes? No? When?

Source: www.resumegenius.com

Source: resumegenius.com

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about whether or not to include a cover letter with job applications.

One perspective: A cover letter customized for the company and position is a best practice. A well crafted cover letter can give you an edge, and just might be what separates you from the crowd.

Another perspective: Cover letters are a waste of time. They are rarely read. If it’s not a standout, it’s just one more thing the employer won’t open. At worst, a cover letter may hurt your chances, especially if it’s boring.

What’s the right way to look at it for us?

We work with a wide variety of clients and employers, so to write or not to write a cover letter is probably a decision you’ll make on a case-by-case basis. There will certainly be a range of employer expectations depending on which industry or job you are targeting for your clients.

That being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind when considering whether or not to write a cover letter with or for your clients:

DO NOT include a cover letter if…

  • the instructions say not to do so. If instructions aren’t followed, the application will likely go into the “circular file”.
  • it will be easy for the employer to tell that the applicant did not write the letter themselves. If a client cannot write a cover letter for themselves, don’t misrepresent them by giving the employer the impression that they are fully literate and fluent in English. Employers don’t like surprises.
  • a cover letter won’t be considered or isn’t appropriate for the job or application process. Many online application systems do not include space for a cover letter for hourly positions, for example.

DO include a cover letter if…

  • the application is for a more professional job. If you have a client who is qualified for professional positions, make sure to involve them in the cover letter writing process so that they can learn this important job application skill.
  • there is an instruction or option (e.g. sometimes it’s optional on online applications) to include a cover letter. Take advantage of any opportunity to help your client stand out.
  • there is a need to explain gaps in employment or minimal employment (as is often the case with refugees).

Two additional ideas to consider:

  • In cases where the employer does not require or want a cover letter but you feel like some explanation is necessary to highlight your client’s skills, consider adding a “Summary of Skills” list or Background section to their resume where you can point out what isn’t as obvious from the simple resume.
  • Some employer partners may prefer a simple email from you which gives them basic information on your client instead of a cover letter. Sometimes referred to as a “candidate profile”, this note would summarize skills, work history, and language ability.

For more on cover letters check out this post from www.greatresumesfast.com.

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