A cover letter gives you less than a page to stand out in a crowd. Though you might just seem like a name on a page to a recruiter, the right letter can help you make a memorable impression.
While you write, remember that a cover letter is meant to build your case — to a complete stranger! — as to why you’re the right person to hire. And you need to tailor each cover letter to the job you’re applying to.
Here’s how to do just that:
Find the right person to address: Skip the stock opener of “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern.”
If you don’t know to whom you should address the cover letter, then find out. Call the company’s administrative office or human resources department and see if they can provide a name. You can also scour the company’s website and LinkedIn page to find a recruiter, hiring manager or anyone else who will likely get your application. Even if that particular individual doesn’t end up reading it, you’ve shown that you put in the work to find out who could.
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If you absolutely cannot find a name then your last-ditch effort is to write “Dear hiring manager” or “Dear recruiter,” says Jeremy Fisher, associate director of the career center at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
Craft a stellar opener: Deliver a strong first paragraph to get a recruiter interested in reading more about you.
“The opening line will grab their attention the most,” Fisher says. “If this is your dream job or this is what you’re passionate about, then say it. Briefly introduce who you are and the position you’re applying for, but really say why you are a good candidate and why you want to work at that company.”
Also, if you were referred to the company, the opening paragraph is the time to include the name of the person who referred you.
Figure out why you want to work for this company: Companies don’t want to know what they can do for you. What they do want to know is why you want to work for them.
Research the company’s mission, history, CEO, practices and any recent news. Be able to express familiarity with what they do and explain why you want to be part of the team.
As you write
Use keywords: Include keywords and key phrases in your cover letter that are easy for a recruiter or applicant-tracking system to spot.
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“There is, essentially, a gatekeeper to any position,” says Heather Eby, assistant director of the career center at University of Akron in Ohio. “They’re looking for specific things. You want to mirror the verbiage used by the company if indeed you have those skills.”
Don’t regurgitate your resume: Your cover letter is not your resume, so don’t repeat the same information. Instead, come up with three to four of your key competencies to highlight, says Debbie Good, clinical assistant professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. The details you highlight should connect to what’s in your resume and show how your skills can benefit them.
“For example, if I get involved in team-building activities in my internship or even in the classroom, then I can talk about that kind of skill set as a competency and morph that into a project management based environment,” Good says.
Proof your work
Don’t slip up on details: Getting information wrong is a surefire way to get tossed aside. Get a second pair of eyes on your letter to find any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors you may have missed. Always double-check the job title for the position you’re applying for or any other specific information about the company that you include.
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“I’ve seen people get the hiring manager’s name wrong or recruiter, or the company wrong,” says Crystal Wittman, head of client services at Alexander Mann Solutions, an international talent acquisition agency. “They might be sending out multiple cover letters, but they need to slow down and take time to make sure everything is right.”
Be authentic: The goal of any cover letter is to show why you are uniquely qualified for a position. But, when you’re writing dozens of tailored letters, it can get easy to lose your own voice and any creativity.
On your final read through, make sure you come across as a human, not a robot. “You want to demonstrate your individualism and your personality,” University of Akron’s Eby says. “Try not to sound like somebody you’re not. You still want to represent yourself honestly.”
Anna Helhoski writes for NerdWallet, a website that helps consumers make smarter financial decisions. NerdWallet is a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.
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career advice, careers, college graduation, cover letter, Creighton University, finding a job, job interview, NerdScholar, resume, University of Akron, University of Pittsburgh, CAREER PATH
REAL ESTATE AGENT RESUME COVER LETTERS
All real estate agent resume cover letters should showcase the applicants’ ability to relate to the public, hold open houses on listed properties, take potential buyers on a tour of properties for sale and help them make a choice that works for their financial profile. Any real estate agent resume cover letter that includes the individual’s knowledge and ability to carry out the tasks associated with this profession will work well toward landing an interview.
456 Lake Drive
Centerville, USA 34576
October 15, 2006
Mr. Gregory Bartlett
Any Town Realty
17 Paseo Dorado Drive
Any Town, USA 78956
Dear Mr. Bartlett:
Last March I passed my real estate licensing exam and am ready to work among other real estate agents in Any Town. I saw your listing on CareerJimmy.com for a new real estate agent to join your office so I am writing this resume cover letter to apply for that position.
I know I will enjoy helping people find their dream house, and I’m willing to learn from the more experienced agents in your firm. I will assist with open houses and related office work as I learn the basics of this profession.
May I stop by your office some afternoon next week to talk over the duties and to meet your staff?
I look forward to hearing from you. Please call 456-777-8989 to set up a time that is convenient for you.
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