An effective cover letter accomplishes two goals: It shines a spotlight on your resume and supporting materials (like work samples), and it convinces potential employers to call you in for an interview. Your cover letter probably won’t get you hired on the spot, but it can certainly move you forward to the next stage of the selection process.
So if you want employers to pick up the phone as soon as they put down your application, how can you make your case in a way that’s clear, brief, professional, and interesting? How can you use this one-page message to inspire confidence in your abilities and outshine your competition? Start by making sure these four statements appear somewhere on that page.
Four Key Messages in Your Cover Letter
The following four statements will make you stand out as a candidate:
1. A description of similar work you’ve handled in the past.
Especially at the entry level and mid-career level, managers like to see assurance that you’ve done this kind of work before. Hiring is expensive and so is training, and both of these can easily go wrong and result in hassles and costly headaches.
So regardless of your skillsets and other credentials, managers will skim your resume and cover letter looking for evidence that you’ve handled this kind of software, managed this kind of project, dealt with this type of client, sold this type of product, or worked behind this kind of counter at least once before in your professional life.
2. A brief summary of your entire job history.
The key word is “brief.” Your cover letter is no place for an exhaustive laundry list of company names and position titles. But employers still like to get a sense of your basic career trajectory, since it gives them an idea of what you’re used to, the type of culture in which you thrive, and the kinds of accomplishments that make you feel proud and fulfilled.
3. The unique skills that make you perfect for this particular job.
As far as you can tell, this position will require someone who is great at Skill X, and you happen to be exceptionally competent and adapted to Skill X. Let your employer know that you aren’t just smart and hardworking—you’re smart, hardworking, and perfectly suited for this exact job in ways your competitors aren’t.
4. A brief description of what you want.
Again, brevity is key, but at some point in your cover letter you’ll need to be clear about the kind of job you’re looking for. If you’re working your way to the executive level and this job can take you there, say this. If you thrive under high deadline pressure, mention this fact. If you love working closely with a small team in a collaborative environment, say this.
Your cover letter should be 80 percent focused on your employer’s needs and how you can contribute to the company. But 20 percent should be focused on you. After all, this letter has everything to do with your own passions and your own future.
Be Clear About Your Skills & Ambitions
Use your cover letter to tell employers what you want, what you love, and what you can do. If you aren’t sure how to express or explain these things, LiveCareer can help. Visit the site and use the cover letter builder that will write your letter of introduction, impress hiring managers, and secure more job offers.