When conducting a job search, the cover letter is placed on top of the resume much like a tablecloth covers a dining table. Regardless of your background, it introduces you as organized, serious about the job, and well spoken. It establishes connection with the reader. It shows you are interested, enthusiastic, and invites further communication. Remember these basic rules.
- Don’t copy verbatim what you see in sample resume/cover letter books. Employers have endured their share of cookie cutter letters that sound like they’re straight from the resume guides. Be yourself! Use your own words and style. It’ll be far more interesting and appealing.
- Keep it short.
- Ensure paper color is professional (whites, beiges, ivory, or muted grey); use quality stock. (4) Omit fancy fonts or cute emojis.
The cover letter should be one page, better yet 3 paragraphs. Address it to an actual person. Look online or call the hiring company and find out a name if you don’t know it. Check spelling to ensure accuracy. Invite the reader to learn more about you and what you can offer by introducing your accomplishments, especially those that align to skills they seek.
The first paragraph shows interest in the position being offered. Sometimes an attention getting one-liner is appropriate if you can think of one. Here’s an example: I spent ten years at Sing Sing Prison…as chief auditor evaluating all accounting policies. After you get the employer’s attention, show you’ve done your homework. Review their website, locations and become familiar with their products/services. If you can’t think of a clever opening line, state you’re interested in the job posting listed in (NAME) newspaper, website, job board on a specific date.
The second paragraph highlights a few accomplishments and embedded skills that “fit” with competencies the employer seeks. An example might look like: “Your job posting states you seek an experienced salesperson with proven customer skills, and knowledge of the retail sports market. Since I have experience as an in-store sales associate and I enjoy the field for future employment, this is a top priority for me.” This paragraph is your chance to discuss value you bring to the job. Tell the employer that you want to do the same for him or her.
Another way to handle paragraph #2 is to make one strong introductory sentence followed by indenting and listing 2-4 accomplishments that would interest an employer. Here’s how that paragraph might appear: With five years’ experience in retail sporting goods, I conducted in-store training with five new hires, selected merchandise, and held key roles in five new store startups. Indent and add two to three statements of accomplishments you’ve achieved. Make sure the first word is an action verb. See examples below.
Selected accomplishments include:
- Trained and supervised five sales associates to ensure product knowledge, professional customer relations and attention to detail.
- Acknowledged by supervisor for ensuring quality results related to training, promotions and sales events.
- Developed five sales associates in one year who earned accolades and were promoted to next levels of responsibility.
The third paragraph communicates your availability for further conversation, perhaps a meeting, by phone or online. Enclosed (or attached) is my resume for your review. Here’s an example:
“Since I’m located in the greater Los Angeles area, I can meet you at your convenience. I’ll contact your office within two weeks to arrange a convenient time. If you wish to contact me earlier, I can be reached daily at 555.876.4321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy further discussion and the opportunity to meet with you soon.