I’ve been writing cover letters to send with my resume for over 15 years. I’ve also been writing cover letters for others for over 10 years. Perhaps it was because I love to write and express myself through writing. Or maybe it was because I wanted others to see just how much the skills matched the position one was applying to.
When I graduated law school, our career services department provided us with sample cover letters. They were plain and boring. I wanted to stand out. I always like to stand out. So, I began to craft my own cover letter with style, grace and sophistication. As I began interviewing, I quickly learned that my cover letter grabbed a lot of attention from the readers.
“You say you have strong writing skills in your resume, and your cover letter certainly displays that.”
“Your cover letter was the only one out of the stack that didn’t have any spelling or grammar errors.”
In today’s times, with only 6 seconds to grab the reader’s attention with your resume, you should always include a cover letter. Not everyone applying to the position will submit one. They will buy into the statistic that only 30% of cover letters are read by prospective employers. What if the employers you are sending your resume to are that 30%? How can you be so sure your cover letter won’t be read?
Better to be prepared than be one of the applicants whose resume is tossed in the trash because you didn’t attach your cover letter. The best part about a cover letter is that once you have the skeletal framework, you can re-use the same cover letter over and over again, while just simply changing the salutation and/or company name as needed.
1. The Salutation
This is your greeting. Greet your reader by the correct salutation, Mr. or Mrs., followed by the last name. If you do not know the name of your reader, then it is suggested to write Dear Sir or Madam. Never assume your reader is a sir or a madam. Use “or” to provide the ability to address either a sir or a madam.
2. The Opening
Your high school English teacher always said, “The opening paragraph of your essay must grab the reader’s attention.” Grab the prospective employer’s attention by evidencing a specific skill you have that meets the job description or qualifications. Why are you pursuing this position? Don’t be afraid to list some core competencies that evidence your abilities (i.e. communication skills, supervisory experience, etc.)
3. The First Body Paragraph
Once you have introduced yourself to your reader, or, as I like to call it, your future employer, now it’s time to provide examples of your work and the accomplishments you’ve achieved in your positions. Look at your resume. What sales goals have you met? Have you been promoted? Look to the key achievements and results that have shaped your roles.
This paragraph should define some examples of the work performed and results achieved. This paragraph should be connected to your resume. This does not mean you should copy verbatim what is in the resume. Rather, cover some key competencies that you feel define your success. You can also provide information that is not in your resume. Maybe you are switching careers or to another area of law. Perhaps you did a research project on particular area that is now key to the position you are applying to.
4. The Second Body Paragraph
This is optional, but you can utilize it to emphasize the particular traits you have that match what the company is seeking. Are you a team player? Do you have recommendation letters in which you have been noted for your ambition, dedication or supervisory role? State those achievements and how they can meet the goals of the prospective employer.
5. Conclusion Paragraph
Like any good essay, your closing paragraph should re-state your thesis: your interest in the company, what you have to offer, and close the letter by advising that your resume is enclosed and you look forward to meeting with the prospective interviewer. Always thank them for their interest in you.
Utilizing the above structure, you can easily craft a creative cover letter to use for each job you apply to. If you are unsure of your cover letter, turn to an expert who can help.