How to write cover letter
Hiring managers routinely receive responses from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of applicants for any given job. To avoid having your resume sink in this sea of paper, its imperative to write a cover letter that stands out from the crowd and makes a good first impression.
A compelling cover letter that follows five essential rules will convince a hiring manager to read an applicants resume.
Rule #1 - Appearance
The resume and cover letter must be aesthetically pleasing and consistent in appearance. This would include using the same heading and fonts in each, both produced on a high-quality printer and paper (if documents are being snail-mailed"). Save the designer stationery and stylish fonts for writing letters to friends. A professional employment package never sets a casual tone.
Rule #2 - Target Your Audience
Always use the hiring managers name in the salutation. If the contacts name isnt provided in the job posting, a bit of Internet research or a well-structured phone call can produce results. In using the contacts name, the cover letter is personalized, while also showing the applicants interest in the company. Remember, a letter addressed "Dear Sir or Madam" or worse, "To Whom It May Concern," has the same impact as one addressed "Dear Occupant."
Rule #3 - A Strong Opening
A dynamic opening paragraph is essential to capture and retain a hiring managers interest. Pared down to basics, for a quick and effective read, it should include a reference to the position sought and a brief statement as to why the applicant feels qualified to fill the job. Emphasis should always be placed on what the applicant can do for the targeted company, while also providing quantifiable proof as to why this is true.
Rule #4 - Showcasing Accomplishments
Include a bulleted area to emphasize accomplishments pertinent to the targeted job. Not only does this break up large blocks of text that a hiring manager might find daunting, but it also draws the eye towards the most important part of the cover letter -- what the applicant has to offer.
Rule #5 - A Proactive Closing
Always initiate further action at the end of a cover letter. A proactive closing indicates that the applicant will call within a few days to see if a time might be scheduled to meet. To wait for a hiring manager to take that first step is to risk losing the opportunity to another candidate.
Thank You Letters
Because a cover letter is your first chance to make a lasting impression with a hiring manager, it must be professional. To accomplish this:
1. Always use the same heading for your cover letter that you have used in your resume.
2. Whenever possible, use the hiring managers name. This personalizes the document and shows attention to detail.
3. Include in your opening paragraph what job youre interested in and a specific reason as to why you feel qualified for this position.
4. Include in the body of the letter the specific experience, skills or accomplishments from your past that dovetail with the requirements of the new job. This data should be bulleted, rather than presented in a solid block of text. The human eye is drawn to bulleted areas, and they provide the data in an easy-to-read format, so that the hiring manager can digest the information from one sentence before moving on to the others.
Examples of bulleted areas follow:
As my enclosed résumé indicates, my background includes more than two decades of service at US Flight with significant experience in:
"Aircraft accident investigation as a member of the US Flight disaster team.
"Security checkpoints, where I handled countless calls for assistance.
"Training the Ground Security team to protect and promote public safety.
In addition to the above skills, I can also offer your firm:
"More than 30 years of experience in the airline industry.
"Expertise in dealing with government agencies, including the FAA where I facilitated communications to reduce company fines.
"Reduced absenteeism and occupational injuries -- standards I maintained at US Flight, where I achieved the best employee safety record of all US Flight cities.
5. If the letter is being addressed to a specific hiring manager, close your letter proactively indicating that you will be contacting the hiring managers office within the next week to see if you might set up a time to meet.
Sending Your Cover Letter by Snail Mail
With todays technology, most resumes and cover letters are sent as attachments via email. However, if you have reason to send your cover letter and resume by snail mail, the documents should be printed on good bond paper (20 lbs.) with a watermark. Choose a color that evokes professionalism; the best choices are white or cream, though a light gray can also be considered.
A follow-up letter sent a few weeks after the initial application is essential in todays poor job market. Hiring managers are seeing more and more applicants for each position and are generally so swamped that they cannot respond to all of them. Nor will they remember most.
To ensure that your candidacy gets the attention it deserves, use a follow-up letter to again place yourself in front of the hiring manager. Not only will that person take note of your continued interest in the position, but you will certainly move ahead of those other, similarly qualified candidates who did not send a follow-up letter.
To ensure a professional look for your follow-up letter and to maintain consistency, use the same heading that was on your resume and initial cover letter.
Within the body of the follow-up letter, reiterate your most stellar qualifications as they relate to this position.