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The 5 Must-Have Ingredients for a Successful Cover Letter

by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, Freelance Writer on August 22nd, 2017

You may have wondered whether or not you actually NEED a cover letter. After all, some job openings ask for them and some don’t. Are they even read anymore? And, do you need to bother? My answer to clients is a resounding YES. After all, I’ve never heard of someone NOT getting an interview opportunity because they sent a cover letter and they went above-and-beyond the requirements. So, what should you do to make sure you cover letter stands out and isn’t thrown in the trash? Read below for my 5 must-have ingredients to create an impactful cover letter.

#1 – Focus on the employer in the FIRST paragraph. Instead of starting out stating why you want the job and where you want your future career to go, you need to demonstrate why you can make an impact with the organization and HOW that will help them. They need YOU to solve THEIR problems.

#2 – Start giving the readers some skill-sets that will help in the open position. Even then, you need to keep the “you” attitude and focus on the employer. For example, say something like, “Your organization is ready for someone that can build ongoing partnerships, establish contracts, and work closely with external partners – these are all skills I’ve honed while working with ABC Company.” See what we did there? Rather than saying something like, “My skills include….”  – we have turned it so the focus is—once again—on the company.

#3 – Use three or four bullet points in the middle of the letter. Don’t use one-word bullets and don’t list your skills. INSTEAD, focus on two or three past achievements or accomplishments that align with the job opportunity. This means that you focus on how many clients you landed within 90 days, the number of employees you supervised, the dollar amount of the account you secured, etc. Use numbers, percentages, and dollar amounts whenever possible.

#4 – Be positive and CONFIDENT throughout the letter. It’s vital that you don’t say thinks like “I think,” or “I feel,” or “I’m almost positive.” Instead, say things like, “I know,” “I’m certain,” or “I am positive.” Don’t think of it as bragging—think of it as stating a fact that you are AWESOME at your job and KNOW how to get things done.

#5 –  End with “I’m excited to hear from you,” or something similar. Don’t mention that you will call in three days or that you “hope” to hear from the hiring manager. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t follow-up with the organization, but you don’t have to use your cover letter space to do so.

And, for those that still may think you don’t need a cover letter. Wouldn’t you rather be prepared and NOT need it versus need it and NOT have it? Finally, I always tell my clients that they can certainly use the verbiage (or at least some of it) for an email to the hiring manager or in an online application system.

Still not sure where to start with a cover letter? Download my Cover Letter Checklist that GETS INTERVIEWS.

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