A cover letter- your chance to build a (hopefully) compelling case to a decision-maker as to why you’re deserving of making the proverbial “short list” amongst a sea of applicants. If you are anything like me, this task sounds daunting and difficult to know where to even begin. Don't give up too soon, they really have an impact!
While it may be tempting or convenient to assume that a cover letter is antiquated and plays second-fiddle to your resume, making your cover letter an afterthought or skipping it in favor of a few sentences (one of them being “here’s my resume”) is a big mistake.
Hiring managers and recruiters are reading your cover letters carefully to see whether you: answer questions posed in the job posting; can speak succinctly and intelligently about your qualifications; and - most of all - if you “sound” like a fit for the organization’s culture. Communication skills are the cornerstone of countless positions and your cover letter is your chance to flex your skills.
What should your cover letter cover? Less is more. Read all the way to the end of the job posting in case there are specific application instructions and questions to answer.
If there aren’t application instructions, pick the top 3 requirements from the job posting and speak to your exact qualifications on each count. This does not mean to simply repeat what you have on your resume and explain it in a different way. Mentioning that you’re excited about applying and would love to discuss the opportunity further, while cliche, can of course be tastefully worked in.
On the topic of cliches, I beg of you not to say you're the "perfect fit," and here's why: you're setting the bar at a level you might not be able to actually reach. Better to stay humble and let the decision-maker decide if you're perfect or not.
Make it personalize. Hiring Managers can tell when you used the same cover letter for the other jobs you are applying for. Do some research, and describe how you will add value to that specific role through your previous experience.
Finally, show a little personality. Again, if you read my first article, “Breathe Life Into Your Resume,” you’ll remember my soap-box speech about hiring managers and recruiters being real people. If you were me, would you enjoy reading a cover letter that read like a loan application? (Not that there’s anything wrong with loan applications, of course.)
Keeping it brief, applicable, and personable is your ticket. Bon voyage!