A blanket cover letter just isn’t going to cut it these days. So how can you make best use of your time while maximizing your results? Here are a few simple steps to customizing your cover letters (and if you don’t think you SHOULD customize your cover letter for each application you submit then we have bigger problems than I thought…)
AN UNFORGETTABLE OPENER
Here’s a mistake I see more and more job seekers making… they’re opening line on their cover letter says “please accept this in response to the (position) advertised on….”. What’s wrong with this kind of opening line? Everyone uses it. Isn’t the point of your job search to stand out from the crowd, not to get lost in the midst of it? Instead try using something similar to your branding statement. You can easily tweak your branding statement to be a customized opening line.
For example: With over 10 years of profit-driven project management expertise….
What’s different about this opening line? I’m already addressing the companies need for a bottom-line driven project manager, sharing my years of experience and hitting the job title on the dot. Three big points you’ve scored in the first line alone.
DEMONSTRATING THAT YOU MEET THE NEED
After your opening lines which express interest in the position and introduce yourself immediately jump into how you can meet the organization’s needs based on the requirements the company posted in their online ad or job description.
“I see you’re interested in hiring someone with strategic-change management experience” (or whatever the key requirement of the position is – highlight it here). Then tell—or even better, SHOW—the reader why you have that experience: “In my present role with ABC distributors, I did XYZ, which resulted in JKL.” Showing the potential employer—right off the bat—that you possess a desired attribute or requirement of the position will prompt the hiring manager to invest more time in reading your resume. If your cover letter says in so many words “I’m the perfect match for your opening and I can meet/exceed your needs … ” you immediately get my attention, and I’m more likely to invest time in reviewing your resume. Here’s a tip: do not use bullet points or material word-for-word from your resume. Give them fresh information on the cover letter.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE DETAILS
Here are a few small details to remember when crafting a cover letter to fit a specific opening.
ü Make sure that your cover letter heading matches your resume.
ü Include your branding statement with your header at the top of your cover letter. It enforces your brand and provides a polished touch.
ü Include a quote from a former employer if relevant and hard-hitting. This is a great way to “sell” what you’re capable of accomplishing for an organization. If the employer has a specific requirement in their job ad and you’ve already done that somewhere else and have a great recommendation or quote from a previous supervisor to back it up – WOW!!! – there really isn’t better sales/marketing material than that. Not much can beat a quote about your results.
CLOSE WITH TACT AND PROFESSIONALISM
Always offer to follow up with the employer/hiring manager via phone, e-mail, snail mail whatever… at the close of your letter within a specific time frame (be it one week or two or whenever). Also make sure to include your contact information so they can reach out to you. Keep the closing professional, polished and concise. You don’t want to appear desperate or unprofessional.
Jessica Holbrook Hernandez is an expert resume writer, career and personal branding strategist, author, speaker and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates high-impact, best-in-class resumes and cover letters that transform job searches into interviews and ultimately job offers. For more information about professional resume writing or to read more career and job search related articles visit http://www.greatresumesfast.com or call 1.800.991.5187.