Ive heard a lot of conflicting advice about how to write a cover letter. Ive even heard that I dont need to write one at all. I dont know what to think anymore, any ideas? —Unemployed in Brooklyn
Half stepping when it comes to your cover letter is a common mistake jobseekers make. Most would argue that the resume is the star of the show, however, thats not entirely incorrect. No great movie becomes a classic without a strong supporting cast. The same is true for your resume and cover letter.
Much like the summary section of your resume, your cover letter is like a movie trailer to your career history. Its your first point of contact with an employer, in most cases, so its important to make a good impression immediately. While your resume can only take you as far as your experience, your cover letter can be the perfect tool to fill in the blanks, and explain, or include any tidbits that youre unable to get across with your resume.
Tread lightly, though, it can be tempting to overstretch the truth, theres a very fine line here. Have you ever watched a movie preview, only to realize after you spent those coins to see it, the trailer had nothing to do with the movie? Or worse, the best parts were in the previews and the rest of the movie was a snooze fest. Were you disappointed? Angry? Dont make the same mistake with your cover letter and disappoint your potential new boss.
Here are a few steps to get you started crafting your next employment blockbuster:
1. Every movie trailer has a great opening, so should your resume.
- If you know the hiring managers name use something like “Dear [insert name]:”
- If you dont, keep it simple, “Dear Hiring Manager:”
- Avoid “To Whom It May Concern:” If youre not concerned enough to figure out which applies, no one who reads the letter will be either.
2. The First paragraph of your letter is where you set the scene.
- Tell the hiring manager who you are and what you have to offer, and dont forget to make it brief and interesting.
- Mention the position youre applying for and where you saw it listed. This whole section should only be a few sentences, no more than five.
- RoxxyWrites! Hint: Its OK to use the first-person tense when writing cover letters.
3. The body of the cover letter is similar to when a movie starts with the climax before going back to show you the events leading up to that point. The reader should be engaged and wanting to learn more by now.
- The body should only be one to two paragraphs long. Start by telling the hiring manager why youre perfect for this position in the first paragraph.
- In the second paragraph list your top three bragging points or what youre most proud of in your career history. Remember, though, numbers draw the eye, so include monetary amounts or percent wherever you can.
- RoxxyWrites! Hint: If you have little to no traditional experience or degrees, try to think outside of the box. Talk about classes, volunteer positions, or activities and hobbies that show you know what youre doing.
- Bonus Hint: Pull these bullet points directly from your resume. Dont bother recreating the wheel here.
4. Now is the time to finish strong and take control. Tell them what to do next.
- Take out the guesswork, tell them you are exactly who they are looking for to join their team.
- Dont leave it up to chance, seal the deal. Encourage the hiring manager to contact you to learn more about how you plan to contribute.
- Dont forget to say thank you! This may seem like a given, but you would be surprised how such a small gesture can go a long way.
- Avoid: Listing references before youre asked. You want to come off as confident, not arrogant.
If you have a career question for Roxxy, submit your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday at 5p EST.
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