Secrets to a Strong Cover Letter

Published: Mar 12, 2012

By Alex Twersky, Marketing Consultant and Career Expert

If your resume is a vehicle loaded with important career-related details and accomplishments, then your cover letter is the GPS that will guide it to spark the interest of a potential employer. Here are some tips to ensure your resume and cover letter work in tandem, and that your cover letter does its magic to get your candidacy noticed:

KNOW YOUR ANATOMY. Don’t worry, you don’t need to master college biology to write a strong cover letter. But like the human body, without a solid skeleton your cover letter will just be an unstructured mass. Start with the basic premise that your cover letter will consist of three core paragraphs: the first is your lead-in. This paragraph will identify which position you’re writing about, where (or from whom) you heard about the posting, and what your overall qualifications are for the job. On this last point, don’t be shy about tooting your own horn. Boldly state your years of experience, major areas of professional expertise, and what elements set you apart, from awards to marquee companies or clients you’ve worked with in the past. The second paragraph is the perfect place to share a specific example of recent or past work that demonstrates your professional skills in action (more on that in the next section), while the final paragraph should be tailored to the company, or position, you’re applying for, and make a concise yet cogent argument as to why you’d be a perfect fit for the role. This involves doing some research on your potential new employer and demonstrating to them that you’ve done your homework by citing specific reasons how you’d be an asset to them.

DON’T REPEAT WHAT’S IN YOUR RESUME, EXPAND ON IT. There is a temptation to simply restate what’s on your resume in your cover letter. Since you’re probably comfortable with the way you’ve laid out your experience on the resume, the cover letter is just another platform to restate your case. Taken a step further, it’s also a golden opportunity to strengthen your case. The framework of a resume often doesn’t allow you to go into greater detail about specific experiences because you’re trying to capture a wide span of information in limited space. A cover letter, on the other hand, is the perfect place to pick one or two specific examples that showcase your professional skills in action and elaborate on them in greater depth. You can choose what to write about based on what’s most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Remember, don’t be too modest in sharing how your work made an impact, because….

ACCOMPLISHMENTS MAKE YOUR CASE. The best evidence that you might be an asset to an organization is a past record of achievement. When you dig into your current or past work experience to choose a specific tale to tell, make sure you select one that demonstrates not only what you did but what you accomplished. For example, you might relate a particular professional challenge, or obstacle, you faced in the course of completing a project, the steps you took to overcome, and what the positive result was for your employer. The more you can frame your accomplishments in measurable terms – for example, a specific percentage increase in revenues – the more readily the reader will be able to absorb your sense of accomplishment.

So perhaps you’ve done enough reading about cover letters for one day; now go ahead and write that winning one that will help get your resume noticed!

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