In today's job market, it's not uncommon for a hiring manager to receive 100 or more applications for one job. Hiring is a time-consuming process and there are ways for you to make your cover letter and resume stand out. It's important to take the time to present a well-organized cover letter in order to be noticed. Take a look at these helpful tips.
Many job applicants don't realize that the cover letter is usually the first document seen by the hiring manager or Human Resource professional. With this in mind, it's important to present an interesting and well-organized cover letter whether it's through email or sent through the U.S. Postal Service.
As a Human Resource manager, I can tell you that the cover letter conveys important information about you, as the job applicant. The cover letter demonstrates your written communication skills and becomes a valuable vehicle for demonstrating critical on-the-job skills.
There are several basic steps to creating an eye-catching and interesting cover letter. Let's take a look at these steps one-by-one and I'll differentiate between email cover letters and hard copies wherever needed.
Step 1: Gaining the Hiring Manager's Attention
If you're sending a hard copy, it's worth the effort to find quality resumé stationery and envelopes. Appearance does count and if you have matching stationery for your cover letter and your resumé, you'll be making a good impression. You can find quality stationery at any office supply store or paper supply store. The stationery does come in light colors, which is fine and will make your cover letter and resumé stand out. White or cream-colored paper is standard. When typing your cover letter and resumé use the same font and something standard such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Garamond. Do not use script or any of the fancy fonts.
Of course, if you're sending a cover letter by email you do not have to worry about the stationery, however, do be consistent with your font choice.
Step 2: Generate Interest
Always address your letter with someone's name, not a “Dear Sir or Madam”. This shows personal interest and the hiring manager will take note.
With employment rates very high, there'll be many candidates applying for the same position as you are. You'll need to generate interest in your opening sentence to grab the attention of the hiring manager. The rest of that first paragraph should tell the hiring manager why you're writing a cover letter.
Here's an example: For the past 18 years I have been employed by _______________.
This first sentence now has the interest of the hiring manager as he or she is wondering why you are writing to them. The rest of the paragraph can go something like this:
Recently, they offered a voluntary severance package and I have decided this is a good opportunity to make a change and pursue anorganization such as yours.
The whole paragraph is not only interesting, but it's also flattering to the hiring manager. It's interesting, it conveys long-term employment, and shows that you've had to do some careful thinking about your current situation.
Step 3: Turning the Interest Into Desire
Now that you've become interesting, you need to highlight one or two of your special contributions or achievements in your next paragraph. Your resumé may also have these highlights but you can expand upon them in your cover letter. If you know the prospective employer has a need in a certain area and you have the qualifications, expand upon those highlights. Remember, don't flood the gates, just pique the hiring manager's interest with a few examples.
Here's an example that goes in hand with Step 2's example:
An aspect of my previous experience that was both rewarding and challenging, was the recruiting and hiring of new employees. In addition, my networking and business development skills are an asset in developing new business. I enjoy matching employee skills with employer's needs and have a strong work ethic.
Step 4: Turning Desire Into Action
The bottom line is that you want the hiring manager to read your cover letter and resumé and then call you for an interview. You can be pro-active by letting the hiring manager know that you intend to follow up with a phone call on a certain date if you haven't heard from him/her. Explain in this paragraph, the final paragraph, when and where you can be reached and at what number. By giving clear time frames, the hiring manager will know exactly when to call you.
In the final paragraph, make sure you also convey your appreciation for any considerations that the hiring manager may have. Going over a gazillion applications takes time and it's appreciated when someone notices.
Example of a closing paragraph to Step 3:
Thank you in advance for any considerations that you may have, and I can be reached Monday-Friday on my cell at 219-318-4074 between the hours of 12 Noon and 4 PM. I look forward to an opportunity to meet you and will call you on Thursday, March 21st to set up an appointment.
This gives the hiring manager time to call you first, and if not, then you can make the call on the 21st.
In today's job market, it's important to take the time to present a well-organized cover letter. With so many applicants, if your cover letter does not stand out and look professional, it will probably be tossed aside. Good Luck!