Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stand Out with a Strong Cover Letter

“Do I really need a cover letter?” This is the question I often get when I ask people if they have one. The question is not really about needing it but about how much you really want the job.  When you’re passionate about something, you don’t do the bare minimum – you go the extra mile. That is where the cover letter comes in. It’s that extra step, the enhancement to your product (which is your resume) that can be the difference between “Hi! We’d love to have you come in for an interview” or “Thanks for your interest, we have decided not to move forward.” For job seekers who are really interested in securing that interview, the cover letter is essential.  A cover letter is your golden opportunity to share your communication skills and really highlight your value to the employer

So, let’s get started on your stand-out cover. There are several things to remember when crafting the cover letter because a poorly written one can definitely hurt your chances. Here is a list of some of the best tips to consider when you begin writing.

  1. Do not re-state your resume. Compose your cover letter as if you are talking directly to the recruiter. Imagine being stuck in an elevator with a recruiter for 5 minutes (the elevator pitch as it is widely known).  How would you make a strong positive impression that would have the recruiter itching to get back to his or her office to set up an interview with you? Think about this scenario and then start writing your cover letter.   Use your cover letter to really showcase your  credentials and accomplishments so the employer clearly understands the value you would bring to the company 
  2. The first paragraph is crucial. You have to hook the recruiter right off the bat and show them why you are a perfect fit for their company. Show passion and show interest.  Make sure the employer can clearly see that you know who they are and then tell them why you are interested in working for their company.
  3. Understand that it’s not really about you. Don’t go on and on about why this position is perfect for you. Tell employers what you can do for them. Remember to put yourself in the employer’s shoes when writing the cover letter. They wrote the job description and they are focused on what they need so show them you have what they need.
  4. Don’t just focus on your past experience but clearly tell the employer how your past experience will benefit them in the future. Refer to your research on the company and the job description to help you focus on clearly showing why they should hire you. You can do this in a narrative but there are other ways to get that point across as well. You can craft a direct statement such as “Here is what I can specifically deliver in this role…” and then give bullet points using the PAR method (problem, action, result) to show exactly what you can do. Creating a table listing their job requirements alongside your matching skills is also a great way to make sure you are showing the employer how you can help them now.
  5. Never sell yourself short! Even if your experience is not an exact match, you still have much to offer. Let your enthusiasm and high energy come across. Show your transferable skills and your positive attitude. You would be amazed how your unique combination of intelligence, positivity and willingness to learn can tip the scales in your favor. 
  6. Be yourself. Showing your professionalism and communication style is important but it is also very important that you be yourself. Give the reader a sneak peek at your personality along with your qualifications. Be original and engaging, tell a story, or share an interest.  You will stand out from the pack and make an impact that can get you that coveted interview.

For additional tools and resources to assist in creating a powerful cover letter, please visit the WGU Career & Professional Development website. For individual assistance in crafting your cover letter, email careers@wgu.edu. We look forward to assisting you in reaching your career goals.

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