Five Essentials for a Great Cover Letter Print E-mail

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Cover letters can be confusing for many job seekers. Writing a letter to an unknown entity is always difficult and when it is not clear what that letter should include, it is even more confusing. Cover letters are an essential part of the job search and should always accompany the resume whenever possible. The cover letter “sets the stage” and introduces the job seeker to the reader. A very valuable piece of communication, the cover letter can often tip the scales in favor of an interview.

A great cover letter includes five essential elements:

1 - Focus

Establish the focus and purpose of the communication right from the start. The reader will know you are interested in employment, but be specific about the type of job you are targeting. If replying to a specific advertisement, mention that at the beginning. Push your brand right from the beginning. A cover letter is not a social correspondence but a business communication with the dual purposes of introduction and persuasion.

2 - Establish Brand

What makes you unique? What do you have to offer that is an added bonus? The cover letter is where you establish your image as the expert in your field. Many people think they are average and as a result, they write about themselves in an average way. Employers do not hire average candidates in a tight market. They hire above average candidates. Not only must you show you are a good candidate, but you have to believe you are a great candidate! When you believe it, others will to. That enthusiasm and confidence must come through in the cover letter.

3 - Added Value

Have you ever purchased one brand of product over another simply because you received more for your money with the selected product? Companies try very hard to “bundle” services or market added value benefits in order to persuade you to purchase their products. For example, you may purchase one car over a comparable vehicle because it has a longer warranty. This marketing concept works in job search, too. What do you to offer that is extra? Perhaps you are multilingual or you have depth of insight into the industry that other candidates do not possess. Maybe you win sales based on your unique approach or that you are very good at saving endangered accounts. All of these things are “added value” and can play a powerful role when highlighted in a cover letter.

4 - Set the Stage

It is important for the cover letter to bring attention to some of your achievements to spur the reader to read the resume. Allude to specific accomplishments you have brought into your resume but only give the reader a taste or a tease.  If you can select these statements to match up with the needs of the employer, all the better! For example, if a job ad states “Experience selling into Fortune 100 IT departments” and you have that experience, make sure you mention it in the cover letter!

5 - Be Proactive

So many people make the mistake of ending the cover letter on an “I’ll wait to hear from you” note. Take charge of the situation and state when you will follow up on your communication. State the day you will be in contact and by what method (phone, email, etc.). By being proactive, you give the impression of being positive, confident, and professional. Of course, you have to do what you promise and follow up! Don’t let that drop through the cracks or you waste the entire effort!

Let me answer the age-old question “Is a cover letter really necessary?” right now. Yes! The cover letter is necessary if you want to make a big difference in your job search. A cover letter can communicate many things that cannot be brought into a resume such as availability or willingness to travel. Do all employers or recruiters read the cover letter? No, but many DO. If you are not using a cover letter, you miss the marketing opportunity completely and certainly do not communicate well with the employers who prefer cover letters. Remember, job search is personal marketing and advertising. And what happens when you don’t advertise? Nothing!