One of the most common questions asked of job search experts is, “Do I really need a cover letter?” To set the record straight, yes, a cover letter is necessary. The cover letter influences the reader’s first impression of you. It serves to sell you as a viable candidate or it knocks you out of the running.
Do you recycle the same old cover letter year after year? Perhaps you use a drab template stating “your enthusiasm for the position” and “my resume is attached for your consideration.” (Yawn.) Then there are the lackluster 600-word essays that are rarely read. Time for a cover letter makeover! Follow these three easy steps to a fabulous cover letter.
Step 1: Analyze The Opportunity
Review the job posting or information on the employer’s website. Determine the requirements of the job. Do you possess the education, skills, and experience for this opportunity? Make note of those basic requirements specific to that particular opportunity. This is the content for your opening paragraph. You may think this is a no-brainer.
Well, many candidates miss the mark by starting with a generic opening paragraph. Present yourself as a worthy candidate by stating the position to which you are applying (or department). Support this with how you meet the basic requirements in terms of education and experience.
Step 2: Own It And Sell It
The next step is to explain why you are a match. Based on what you have learned about the company and the job opportunity, identify your top skills. Prove those skills by citing a top accomplishment. Include the scope of your responsibility to drive home the trust your former employers had in you. Brainstorm to uncover these valuable selling points. What you share may vary slightly based on the job opportunity.
For example, one employer may value international experience and another may want an expert in the Midwest U.S. market. The secret to a strong second paragraph is to sell the skills most needed by the prospective employer.