How To Create an Effective Cover Letter that Gets You Noticed
An effective cover letter that gets you noticed will help a recruiter choose you. It should be a condensed version of your resume or CV and should emphasis those things relevant to the company such as: your skill set, experience, and interest in the company.
Top 10 Tips for an Effective Cover Letter
- Identify yourself with complete contact information
- Identify position you are applying for and where you heard about it
- Learn who is hiring manager
- If referred by someone, identify referrer
- Identify your skills and accomplishments
- How you will benefit employer
- Have an action statement
- Use simple fonts and format
- Use active voice
- Check spelling and grammar
An effective cover letter should include the following items:
- Identify yourself and your contact information, including your name, address, phone number, and email address. Given the importance of social networking, also give your Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn ids.
- Have a salutation, preferably with the name of the person doing the hiring. If this job opportunity is important to you, make the effort needed to get this person's name and contact information. It will go a long way to getting the hiring manager's attention.
- Be sure to identify the position you are applying for and where you saw it advertised.
- Summarize the ad to which you are responding. Doing so will help concentrate your attention on those requirements that you satisfy and that are important to your potential employer. Use key phrases from the ad in summarizing your skills, experience, and accomplishments.
- If you were referred by someone in the company, mention them as long as they are respected in the company.
- Give an abbreviated form of your resume's content, concentrating on what is important to your reader.
- Show that you are interested in the employer's needs and have done some research on them.
- Be clear on how hiring you would benefit the employer.
- Be well written to show that you can communicate using the written word.
- Have an action statement at the end of the letter indicating date and time you will call the hiring manager to discuss the position.
Like the resume itself, appearance is also important. Since it precedes the resume and is the first thing a person sees, your covering letter affects the reader's view of you and their desire to go further. Thus, your covering letter should:
- Using short, powerful words, short phrases, and correct grammar
- Be logically organized
- Use the active voice -- be assertive in describing what you do and have accomplished (E.g., I did X, not I was responsible for X)
- Make use of white space to avoid making your letter look cluttered
- Use a font style that is easy to read and scan
- Avoid contractions (e.g. don't); slang (e.g. "perfect", "man"); and trite phrases (e.g. "got", "lots of", "huge").
- Use both a spelling checker and a grammar checker to validate your letter.
- Check how difficult the letter is to read by using a readability index program.
Ideally, the letter should be 3-5 paragraphs long and fit on one page.
Like the resume itself, this letter may be scanned if the recruiter is using resume-scanning software.
Once you have sent your cover letter and resume off, follow up in a couple of days later with an email to the person you addressed in your letter. Remind them about your interest in the job and the most important reasons they should hire you. A week later, send a postcard thanking them with basically the same information, but don't repeat it word for word. These reminders are meant to show that you are really interested in the position you are seeking.
The Alberta government's on web site on Human Resource issues (Alberta's career plan, education, and jobs web site) has a nice video on creating cover letters that discusses many of these points.