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CREATING A COMPELLING COVER LETTER

A powerfully written cover letter is necessary to land most interviews and ensure job search success. When an advertised position creates a pile of 100+ resumes, it becomes the responsibility of the hiring personnel to shortlist the applications. Resumes without cover letters are usually the first to go, followed by the ones with poorly written cover letters. Avoid this fate by following these effective strategies:

Address your cover letter appropriately.

Be sure that you get the name of the hiring manager before sending your resume, and address the letter to that individual. The proper greeting will be either "Dear Mr. (Smith)," or "Dear Ms. (Smith)." Avoid using Miss or Mrs., and do not address your letter to "Dear Sirs," as it is considered inappropriate. If you are unsure of your contact’s gender, address them by their first and last name, as in "Dear Pat Smith," to avoid an embarrassing mistake. If you don't know the name of the hiring manager, simply use the greeting "Dear Hiring Manager,"– it's clear, to the point, and gender neutral.

Get to the point in your opening paragraph.

One of the most common interviewing questions employers ask is “Why should I hire you among other candidates?” Provide an answer to that question right off the bat in your opening paragraph. This is a very important section because it is the first thing the employer will read. It must be powerful and make an immediate impact. Be sure sell yourself and your unique abilities. Do not use a generic opening paragraph that can apply to any Tom, Dick or Harry.

Every line should sell you, so use aggressive language here and throughout the rest of your cover letter. For example, instead of writing “My background is in finance management, making me well-suited for your advertised Corporate Finance Director position.” you can write “A background in finance management and a proven record of developing effective strategies that drive revenue, growth and shareholder value make me a strong candidate for your advertised Corporate Finance Director position.”

Show your interest and sell your accomplishments in the body of the letter.

In this section, you need to show your interest in the job and the company. Research is a key ingredient to a successful job search. The more you are able to demonstrate your interest and knowledge about a company, the better your chances are to secure an interview. Get to know the company’s mission and new corporate initiatives, and tell them how you can help them meet their objectives or resolve their problems. Praise the company for public recognitions or recent accomplishments. The employer will surely take notice of your active interest.

Use “I” and “my” sparingly. Try not to use these words more than six times in your cover letter. You need to focus on what you will bring to the company and how you will help them improve their profitability. Too much use of the word “I” will also make your letter look elementary and poorly written.

For executive-level candidates and professionals with substantial achievements, a bullet point format is often the most effective and efficient way to highlight accomplishments. If you fall into this category, be sure to keep the bullet point statements unique and fresh. Do not copy and paste the exact same phrases from the resume as it will make you look lazy. All sentences and achievements transferred from the resume should be rephrased.

Close your letter with a strong paragraph.

In the closing paragraph, you need to address several issues. At the very least, you need to ask for the interview and provide contact information. This is also the ideal place to mention your salary requirements (if the employer insists on it), or your desire to relocate.

To demonstrate your drive and interest, mention that you will call within a week to follow up. This is a great way to ensure the resume was successfully received, and it creates an opportunity to establish a dialog. However, do not mention this in your cover letter if you do not intend to follow up.

In summation, an aggressive and dynamic cover letter will help you stand out among the competition. Remember that the goal is to market yourself – not to compose a dull biography.

Marie Plett is a certified professional resume writer through the Professional Association of Resume Writers (PARW). She founded AspirationsResume.com in 2003 and her advice has been published in the Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald.