Saturday, August 31, 2013

How to Write a Cover Letter - 8 Steps to Writing an Effective Letter that Moves the Action Forward

Resumes may be the marketing tool that open the door, but cover letters get you invited in.  While a resume shows what you've done, a cover letter allows you to specifically tell what you could do, and how, for a future employer.  

Format of a cover letter
First, note that your cover letter is not a dissertation.   It should be fairly short, rarely over one page or 1 ½ pages maximum, which requires you to be quite strategic as you select what to write and how to write it!  Use your letter to succinctly but convincingly illustrate your value. Within that page, or 1 ½ pages, follow these steps to an effective cover letter:

Step 1:  Brand it.
At the top of the page, brand your cover letter with the same header that crosses the top of your resume.  In fact, all your marketing materials should show the same header or "brand."

Incorrect spelling costs jobs!

Step 2: List the name and contact information of the recipient. 
In a formal cover letter, it is standard to include the recipient’s: name, title, company name, and address.   
You may also choose to include their e-mail or phone below the contact information. 

Important to note: Check and double the spelling of the recipient's name and the company name.  Incorrect spelling has gotten letters tossed aside, along with the candidate's chances.

Step 3: Include a salutation.
Personalize the letter with the salutation:  Dear Mr. Jones, Dear Ms. Smith.  No “To Whom It May Concern”s!
Always, if at all possible, send your letter to a person.  It increases your chance of not only having it read but accomplishing its purpose of moving you to the next step  --  an interview.

Step 4: Introduce yourself.
State your purpose in writing.  You may be writing (1) to apply for an advertised position, (2) to market yourself to a company in which you're interested even if there is no openly advertised position, or (3) in response to a referral from a colleague. 
  1. Advertised position:  State the title of position and how you heard of it, i.e., name your source of information such as the newspaper, website, job bank, etc.
  2. Marketing yourself to a targeted firm:  State an "intriguing" reason you are contacting them, i.e., firm's reputation for stellar performance, you are aware of a challenge they face that you can solve, etc. 
  3. Response to a referral from a colleague:  Name the colleague who referred you in the first sentence of your letter, and then state your reason / request for contacting the referral.     
Step 5: Sell yourself.  This is the Opportunity Step!
In 1-2 paragraphs (3 max),
(a) relate how the work you have done,
(b) meets the requirements of the job you are applying for and thereby 

(c) prove yourself to be a qualified candidate worth interviewing.

For an advertised or open job: 
State the requirements of the job, and show how you meet each, or at least each primary, requirement.  Use examples of your work accomplishments.

Use a paragraph or list to discuss your work:
You can write this in paragraph form, or list accomplishments preceded by bullet points or dashes as shown below:
        ●    Example/Accomplishment  (Note:  State requirement + action you took and outcome
        ●    Example/Accomplishment

For a firm of interest with no known open position: 
State, or discuss, the work the firm does, and how your skills and experience could fit in and provide benefit.  Caution:  Do your homework.  Your research should be accurate about the nature of the firm’s work and needs.  The danger of misstating a type of work being done can damage your credibility and lessen your chances of gaining a meeting or interview. 
Use a paragraph or list to discuss your work: 
Again, you can write this in paragraph form, or list examples of your work.
        ●    Example/Accomplishment  (Note:  State requirement + action you took and outcome
        ●    Example/Accomplishment

Step 6: Close the sale.

In the case of a cover letter, the sale to close is to get an interview or meeting.
  1. Conclude that as you provided benefit to previous employers, you could do the same for them.
  2. Request the next step.  Ask for a meeting, interview, opportunity to meet and discuss how your competencies could benefit their firm.   
  3. Option:  Include your contact information: phone number and e-mail address.*

Step 7: Closing or Sign off formally.
Sign off with a term that you’re comfortable with and is acceptable in business correspondence.
  • Two of the most common are:  Best regards, and Sincerely.
  • Type your full name, leaving a space directly above your typed name for a written signature.
  • Option:  Include your contact information:  phone number and e-mail address.*

Step 8: Enclosing anything?
If your letter contains a resume, or any additional marketing information, note the type of enclosures at the bottom of the page. 

  • Enclosure:  Resume, Annotated Reference List, etc.

  •  ENC:   Resume, Bio, etc.

* Exercise this Option in either Step 6 or Step 7. 
Including your contact information in a highly visible spot makes it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to pick up the phone or send an e-mail.  Make it easy for employers to reach you.

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

No comments:

Post a Comment