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(Reprinted from the Courier-Post – April 3, 2016)
BY MATT TARPEY
Writing a résumé can be tricky, but it seems like a walk in the park compared with writing a cover letter.
What’s the secret? Here are five tricks to writing a standout cover letter — and getting it noticed by hiring managers.
- Get rid of the fluff.
A cover letter gives you the opportunity to speak more expansively than you can on a résumé or application form, but there are still limits.
Remember, hiring managers aren’t obligated to read your cover letter — it’s up to you to grab their interest.
“Keep it concise and focus on areas of your background that are connected to the opportunity,” says Allie Basilica, social media director at Atrium Staffing. “Recruiters (and) managers rarely look at résumés and cover letters for more than one or two minutes.
“Often when people are trying to sell themselves, they use more verbose language than they ever would in another setting,” she says. “Most positions in the business world require candidates who are succinct and efficient, and a wordy cover letter portrays the opposite message.”
- Tell them something new.
If your cover letter doesn’t add anything that hiring managers couldn’t find on your résumé, then it’s not worth their time or yours. “Use the cover letter as an opportunity to sell attributes that would make you a good fit for the position you are applying for that cannot be seen with a quick glance at your résumé,” Basilica says.
This is your chance to make the case for why you are the best fit for the position. Connect the dots laid out on your résumé, and give examples of how you’ve implemented the skills necessary for the job and the results you’ve attained from past experiences.
- Research the company.
Personalizing your cover letter means more than just replacing the company name. It’s important to tie the skills and experience listed on your résumé to the position you’re applying for — and to do that, you need to know something about the company.
“Demonstrate that you’ve done your research,” says Trevor Simm, founder and president of OpalStaff and Talos Solutions. “Take some time to thoughtfully review the company’s website and media coverage to get a feel for its solutions, services, culture and operations, and then find a way to reference this in your cover letter as a reason you are the perfect fit for the job.”
- Don’t make it just about you.
Another key difference between a résumé and a quality cover letter is the focus. Your résumé should be all about you — the skills you’ve acquired and the results you’ve achieved. Your cover letter, on the other hand, should tie it back to the company and explain how you can address its specific needs.
“Focus on how the company will benefit from your expertise and not (on) selling yourself,” Simm suggests. “Your cover letter should show how you’re a skilled and qualified candidate, but it’s more important to explain what value you bring to the company. Avoid using ‘I’ or ‘me,’ and instead (share) how you’ll provide solutions for the company’s challenges.
Doing this will illustrate why you’re the best candidate for the job without you having to explicitly say so.”
- Take your time.
Above all, it’s important to be patient and careful when writing your cover letter. “Avoid being in a rush to send off a letter,” says Crystal Olivarria, a writer for CareerConversationalist. com, an online community and resource center for students. “Your cover letter is often the first impression a potential employer has of you.
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Take the time to do it right.”
Matt Tarpey is a writer for the Advice & Resources section on CareerBuilder.com. He researches and writes about job-search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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