Volumes could be written – and have been – about cover letters. In fact, I’ve written a couple of them. This chapter, therefore, doesn’t attempt to impart every detail about cover letters but touches on some writing highlights about cover letters and tells how careful word choices can enhance this powerful document.
A cover letter can accomplish many functions, among them, telling the employer exactly what kind of job you want to do and tailoring your qualifications to that job. If you struggle with writing job-search documents, a simple outline of what each cover-letter paragraph can entail can help get you started:
Don’t waste this opening paragraph of your cover letter. Tell why you are writing while grabbing the reader’s attention. Your first paragraph must spark the employer’s interest, provide information about the benefits the employer will gain from hiring you, and help you stand out from all the other job-seekers who want the job. Focus in this paragraph on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – the one quality that makes you different from all the other job-seekers – and identify two or three benefits you can offer the employer. An effective cover letter must target a specific position, which should be mentioned in this first paragraph, so spell out exactly what kind of job you’re looking for. If you’re answering an ad, it’s easy to target your letter to a specific job. But if you’re making cold contacts to employers, you’ll have to do some research to find out what positions that the company offers fit your qualifications. Don’t list several possible positions or say that you’re willing to consider any position. If you do, the employer will see you as unfocused or even desperate.