When you’re on the job hunt, keep in mind that your resume and cover letter belong together like a firm handshake and a confident smile. One should never be sent without the other. Even if you are a great writer, putting together a cover letter can be challenging. Utilize the following tips to ensure that you not only get your foot in the door but that you get a seat in the corner office.
You might think that you’re using your time wisely by typing up one generic resume and cover letter, printing it out in multiples, and sending it to every hiring employer you can find, but in reality, you should be spending more time customizing every letter. Whenever possible, avoid addressing your letter “to whom it may concern.” Do your research online or by calling the receptionist to find the appropriate contact. Also, address the specific goals of the company (find its mission statement) in your resume. Use your cover letter to demonstrate how you will fit into and add to their corporate culture. Another way to customize is to match up your qualifications to those listed in the job posting. If the posting mentions that the job requires “someone with leadership skills to drive sales and establish a new customer base,” answer the call by saying something similar to: “As sales manager for Company XYZ, I led a team of 15 associates to boost sales by 30 percent.” Be honest, of course!
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Be Clear and Concise
The average employer receives hundreds of resumes for every job opening. With that in mind while writing your resume cover letter, you should use your opening paragraph to get right to the point. Make clear the position for which you are applying and briefly state why are you the right candidate for the job. For example, you could open your letter by saying: “I read with interest Company XYZ’s need for an account executive. As you can see in my enclosed resume, I would be an excellent fit for this position because I have experience in working with a diverse client base, as well as in identifying potential new business targets.” In the body of your letter, you want to differentiate yourself from the competition by highlighting the skills that make you unique.
Drop Those Names
Name-dropping can often help you get a foot in the door. When you mention that you met John Brown of Company XYZ at a career fair last week and he suggested that you apply for the open position in sales because of the qualifications listed on your resume, chances are it’s going to catch the potential employer’s eye. You have just shown that you have an internal reference. If you have a friend that works at a specific company and she mentions to you that there is a job opening, mention her name in your resume cover letter. By showing you are closely aligned with people who already have the respect of your potential employer, you are setting yourself apart from the pack.
Everyone loves to be noticed. If you have read something positive about a company or a person within a company that has a job for which you are applying, give them props. Say something like: “I read in a recent issue of Forbes that Company XYZ has expanded its profit margin by 30 percent in the past year. Because I believe I can perpetuate Company XYZ’s momentum as part of your sales force, I am submitting my resume for your consideration.” Utilizing this simple tool in your letter shows that you are well read and truly interested in Company XYZ and not just in getting the first job offered to you.
Now that you have bragged on Company XYZ, brag on yourself. Highlight your specific accomplishments with numbers and statistics. Mentioning that you boosted sales by 40 percent in your current job is much more impressive than simply saying you increased sales. Any time you can quantify accomplishments in your resume and cover letter, do so.
Mind Your Manners
Your cover letter should be appropriately professional. You should always address your letter to Mr. or Ms. XYZ, instead of by first name. He or she has not hired you yet, so show the proper respect for them in your letter. Personnel managers are busy, so thank them for their time and consideration. They are doing you a favor by looking at your resume and cover letter.
No one ever got a job because they spelled something wrong. If you are taking the time to write a customized letter, take the time to make sure everything is spelled correctly. If you are not confident in your grammatical skills, enlist the skills of a competent friend to edit your resume cover letter.
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers makes when they send companies their resumes and they stop there. The final paragraph in your letter should let the employer know that you will be in touch in the next week to assure that he or she received your materials and answer any questions he or she might have about your resume. Then, follow through and make the call.
In the job road that lies ahead, the cover letter can be a roadblock or a shortcut. Make sure that your letter highlights your personal attributes in a clear and concise manner so that potential employers don’t bypass your resume.