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In truth, the average hiring manager spends all of 15-seconds scanning over a job seeker’s resume and cover letter before deciding whether or not to call the individual in for an interview. This means you have a fractional window of opportunity to entice the recruiter to learn why you are best suited for the job.
How can you make sure that your cover letter will stand out?
A cover letter is designed to do one thing -- provide a quick introduction that strongly emphasizes why you are the perfect candidate for the job. It’s not meant to be wordy or elaborate. Think of a cover letter much like a sales pitch. It needs to come on strong and put you at the head of the pack.
To accomplish this, let's get rid of the boring text and work on drafting a cover letter that will blow the next recruiter away. Here’s how to write a cover letter that stands out.
# 1 - Keep it simple (not stupid).
Your cover letter does not have to be elaborate and nor does it need to include all your college, work, and life history. Instead, it needs to be simplified to include just the basics. Add a 1-2 sentence introduction, followed by a bulleted list of your top three achievements (related to the assignment or industry), and end up with a short wrap up paragraph.
#2 - Limit the word count.
As a rule, a recruiter is not going to give your cover letter the time of day if it’s longer than 200 words. Keep your paragraphs concise and to the point. Leave off extra words that simply fill up space. Remember, you’ll have plenty of time to explain more in the interview.
#3 - Follow instructions.
If there’s one thing you do when writing a cover letter, please … please … PLEASE read over the job description and application instructions. The recruiter has created this for a reason. Submit your cover letter in the right format too in a separate document in case they are not too keen to read it immediately.
#4 - Do your homework.
Before launching off into your cover letter, take the time to review the corporate website to learn more about the corporate culture. Read through recent press releases about the company. Learn more about the company leadership. Make sure your cover letter acknowledges these aspects and how you will fit in.
#5 - Show and tell.
Your cover letter is a little like a 'show and tell' at school. You need to write truthfully and demonstrate through descriptive words how you can benefit the company. Help the recruiter to visualize you in the job by talking about how your career experience and professional portfolio are a close match for the assignment needs.
#6 - Your college GPA doesn’t matter.
In the grand scheme of things, your college GPA or test scores have no place on a cover letter. In fact, contrary to what you’ve heard on resume websites, unless the recruiter specifically asks for this information, leave it off your resume too. What counts are your career achievements.
#7 - Back everything up.
Before you start writing the cover letter of the century, keep in mind that anything you mention needs to be backed up with real facts on your resume. This is why it’s important to “sell” your skills effectively, but don’t go overboard.
#8 - Give a call to action at the end.
Want the recruiter to call you? Just as any smart marketer will do, leave the cover letter ending with a compelling call to action statement that lets the recruiter know when you are available and a method to contact you.
#9 - Provide full contact info.
Last but not least, make sure your cover letter (and resume) has your complete contact information included. Add your phone number and email address either in the page heading or underneath your signature. It’s easy for a cover letter and resume to become separated in transfer.
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