Writing an Attention-Getting Cover Letter

YES, you HAVE to include a cover letter with EVERY resume you submit.

I’m afraid so…. SIGH!

I get asked that a lot, and wish I could give you the answer you probably want!

Writing cover letters doesn’t have to be hard – (yes, really!)  ( I can help you make it much, much easier, though.)

But they do need to grab attention.

Here’s the overall goal – come up with something that the reader of umpteen-million cover letters doesn’t see come across her desk umpteen-million times a day.  Of course, whatever you say should actually be true!

Here’s a few tips to get you started:


Addressing the letter: Try to address it to a person, or, be as specific as you can NOT “To Whom it May Concern”.  Do some research to see if you can find out the manager’s name.  If not, “Dear Hiring Director” or “Dear Human Resources Manager” will have to do.  Sometimes I would add in “and the team”, or “and the (Widget) (Marketing) (Customer Service) Department team”.  I think this shows that you are approaching the position with consideration to your potential co-workers as well as management.

Be unique, within reason:  The best scenario is being invited to apply by someone in your extended network.  That helps you get your foot in the door.  It isn’t always possible to ‘name drop’ as in” “Joe Shmoe in the Weebles Department recommended I apply for the Widget Department Manager position.”

The next best thing is to be unique.  Not in a crazy outrageous sort of way (I heard a story once that someone sent a dress shoe along with a letter that said “I’m a shoe-in for this position.” Although personally I like the originality in some ways, I don’t recommend this strategy for most people!)

Include a sentence or two about your personal qualities/characteristics: The cover letter is the first place to introduce a bit of who you are as a person. Outside of the hard skills and experiences that are the focus on your resume.  What do people say about you (clients, co-workers, managers?)  Add some of those observations to add a bit of the personal that is still professional in nature.

Your choice of layout and language matters, too.  Make your formatting easy to quick-scan for the reader while addressing the job ad requirements and particularly, if applicable the “experience preferred” areas, too.  Use positive language with active (not passive) verbs.  Passive verbs assume or allow for doubt – they aren’t confident.  Speak in a self assured, yet not arrogant voice.  Employers want to hire the best, & your word choice is one way you show your level of confidence that YOU are, in fact, the best candidate.

CUSTOMIZE EACH LETTER.  Many resume writing companies will offer a package with a custom cover letter – but those letters are customized to you & your brand only – which is good.

But what’s MOST important is that each letter you send is customized TO THAT COMPANY and JOB  – and that it communicates your unique brand and skills, too.  No one letter can meet both equally important objectives. 

To reach both, you need a unique letter for each job, which I can teach you to do.  I coach my clients to learn how to write their own letters that target each job and showcase their unique experiences that match each job’s requirements.

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