Cover letters, although stressful and time-consuming to write, help the candidates tremendously when they are trying to distinguish themselves from the other applicants. If you want to draw the attention of hiring managers to your unique qualifications or even explain something that’s just not possible through the resume, a good cover letter is the way to do it.
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Here are a few tips that could help you get the interview call:
1. Know whom to address it to: While you may not always know the name of the hiring manager or the recruiter, try your best to get this information — a contact in the organization, maybe? If you find the posting on LinkedIn, the job poster details usually appear on the right side, when you click on the full posting.
Don’t fret if you are unable to find the name, just make sure you address it to the “hiring professional,” not “to whom it may concern.” Even if the recruiter is reading your cover letter, the salutation works well.
2. Write for the Applicant Tracking System and the hiring professional: As Jen Hubley Luckwaldt explains, if your resume and cover letter get scanned by software before they ever see human eyes, using keywords effectively “will help make sure your materials make it to a person, and impress that person when they get there.” Make sure you use keywords that describe the job, as well as action keywords, which describe what you did. Alison Doyle of About.com offers a great list here, which gives suggestions for both your resume and cover letter.
3. Keep it short but substantial: I would recommend keeping the length of the cover letter to half a page. That length is easy to sweep through in one quick glance. It’s also easier to read on a handheld device — less scrolling. Don’t belabor what you’ve already written on your resume. In addition to stating why you want to apply for the job, a cover letter is a great way to explain things that may otherwise raise a question on your resume. For example, you can explain why you’ve changed fields, from accounting to sales, etc., or why you are applying for a job in a different state, and so on. But, note that your cover letter should not offer any completely new information — this may seem as an afterthought. As Jada A. Graves writes for U.S. News, “If you’re bringing up something new and different from your resume, you’ll appear forgetful.” Your cover letter should complement your resume.
4. Personalize it: You cannot just copy and paste a cover letter. It does not help. Although you may find a zillion samples out there, you cannot use them unless you personalize them. The cover letter is your chance to let the hiring manager or recruiter get a glimpse of who you are. So mention what you bring to the table that is significant to the role.
5. Keep it relevant: Tie your letter to the requirements of the organization you are applying for. Stay up-to-date on any news about the organization, so you that you are able to present your interest and connect your capability with the current needs. If you’re applying for a job for which you do not have much experience, use the cover letter to say why you think you’d still be a good fit. For example, if you’re applying for a vendor manager role, but have an operations experience, explain what in operations management maps well to the vendor management role.
6. Keep the basics in mind: Spell check, proofread, check the format, and save it in a file format that is easily accessible on most systems without the need for downloading any new software. Keep it simple. Don’t use flowery or colloquial language. Seek feedback on your letter from friends or relatives before you send it out.
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