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Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

How to Write A Compelling Cover Letter

A cover letter should make a compelling case for why you should be hired.  It’s a great opportunity to have as close to a conversation with a future employer as is possible.  Remember, it’s not just a regurgitation of your resume.  It’s a well thought out, well written document that catches someone’s attention and makes them want to meet you and consider your candidacy.  It’s your chance to impress them with your writing skills and your ability to impress.  There are several steps to follow when writing cover letters:

Cover Letter pre-work:

Step #1:  Know your strengths:  Identify your top 10 strengths and your top 5 areas of improvement.  List your greatest accomplishment next to each strength, and ensure your examples are quantified.  For example: your communication skills could be listed as a strength.  Your example could include:  I recently delivered a presentation to the entire sales force of my company and afterwards managed a lively Q&A session, receiving praise  from the participants and my manager.  The material was used by the entire salesforce to help them reach their sales targets.  

Step #2:  Dissect the job description:  What are the 3 or 4 critical components that are deal breakers to the employer?  Ensure they lie within your strengths, and write about them in your cover letter. 

Step #3:  Ensure your areas of improvement do not lie within the 3 or 4 critical components of the job.  That will not make a pleasant experience for you or your employer.   Remember, the recruiter’s goal is to hire the right person into the right job.  Your goal is to ensure you are hired into the right job.  Lead with your strengths and find as many opportunities that lie there as possible.  To a large degree, it’s a number’s game!

Cover Letter Templates: 

1st paragraph:  Intro:  list how you heard about the position, that you are very interested, and that you would make an exceptional candidate.  This is no time to be shy.  If you are applying for the job, you should be convinced that you would excel at it.  In this economy, confidence is a must (even if you have to ACT like you have it!).  Remember that there is a fine line between confidence an arrogance, so make sure you strike a healthy middle ground.

2nd, 3rd & 4th paragraph:  It’s very important to dissect the job description and select the two or three or four skills and characteristics that a candidate must have to be successful.  Dedicate each of the middle paragraphs of your cover letter to one of those traits.  For example:  If a candidate must have exceptional communication skills (that is your 2nd paragraph). If they must have a keen sense of judgment (that is your 3rd paragraph) and if a candidate must have superior follow-up skills (that is your 4th paragraph). 

Each paragraph must state that you excel in this area, and it must list a specific example of how you mastered the skill.  You must be specific and you must quantify your methodology and result.  Here is an example:

I have a strong ability to motivate individuals around me.  This past year, we needed to complete a project that normally would have taken two weeks.  My manager wanted it done in three days.  So I set goals for my team and made it into a contest – complete with prizes!  We achieved our goal and morale was higher than ever. 

5th or closing paragraph:  You need to state once again that you would be the perfect candidate for this position because of your extensive skills and abilities (that exactly match those stated in the job description).  You should state that if they have any questions, they should contact you, and that you will follow up with them in approximately one week in hopes that you can meet in person to discuss your background in light of this position.  Also thank them for their time in reviewing your cover letter and resume. 

So this is as close to a cover letter formula as is possible.  Remember, make the case for why you should be hired.  State confidently that you are an exceptional candidate and that you could immediately contribute to their bottom line.  It’s not only about you.  It’s about you contributing to them and making for a successful hire.

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2 Responses

  1. D Lee says:

    This is wonderful article. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for your feedback and the kind words on the article. We try to post valuable advice for career management and job search several times each week, so please let us know what topics are of interest and check back often. Regards, Caroline

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