Your cover letter may not have the power to land you a job on the spot, no matter how well formatted or beautifully written it may be. Unless your pitch is truly unbelievable (or the hiring manager is your own mom), employers usually won’t rush to make you an offer without conducting a deeper review.
But in order to make it to the next stage and land an interview, you’ll need to set yourself apart from a crowd of other applicants, and your cover letter provides a few unique opportunities to do this. Start by keeping these tips in mind:
1. Create a letter that looks professional and beautiful , even before reviewers read the first word. Formatting and layout are critical to the success of your application, since people are visual animals. And hiring managers in particular are often motivated by impulses and first impressions (sometimes more than they like to admit.) If a quick glance reveals a solid block of unbroken text, a letter than runs on for more than a page, or font decisions that draw attention away from your message, then the review process won’t be off to a strong start. Think of your letter as a document, but also a work of art.
2. Get to the point. Don’t ramble slowly into the most important parts of your message. A few pleasantries at the beginning are appropriate if you share a personal contact or an experience with your reader (like a conference you both attended). But otherwise, use your first sentence to get the heart of matter. Name the position you’re applying for and explain how you found out about it.
3. As you list and explain your credentials, emphasize relevant detailsover general qualities that sound impressive. Your reader will want to know if you’ve done this exact kind of work before, how well you handled that previous experience, and how you intend to approach the available position if it’s offered to you. If you ran a marathon, earned A’s in school, or completed your pilot’s license, that’s great—but these things may not say much about your ability to step into the job at hand.
4. Be a clear communicator. If you don’t write well, get help. Enlist a professional editor or solicit feedback from your friends and family. Your ability to convey a clear message in a direct and compelling way will influence your potential employer—and speed up your job search.
5. Close your letter with grace and confidence. As you conclude your message, invite—don’t command—your reader to review your attached resume. And let her know that you’d welcome an opportunity to speak with her in person about your qualifications.
6. Keep your central message clear: YOU should be hired for this job, not someone else. This message should be emphasized from the beginning of your letter until the final sentence. Because you can bring something to this company that nobody else can. Leave no doubt in your reader’s mind about what this might be.