Cover letters are an introduction and so much more
Since we are moving toward becoming a paperless society, the question often comes up in the context of job searching of whether or not cover letters are still necessary. The short answer is yes.Typically, when attempting to get the nod by an employer that you are to be hired, there are three initial doors through which you must sequentially pass - cover letter, resume and interview. In each case, you have an opportunity to make an impression. And in each case, you have a chance to progressively present yourself in greater depth.The starting point is with the cover letter. So, let's examine this tool in more detail.The cover letter is your self-introduction. Its purpose is to get the hiring manager interested in you enough so that they will want to review your resume, which will hopefully prompt an interview.Hiring managers have a lot more work to do than time in which to do it. They are pressured and probably stressed.Also, they have a staggering amount of applicants for very few jobs. This encourages hiring managers to find reasons for eliminating applicants to just a select few for eventual interviews.Finally, they have seen boring and generic cover letters time and time again. One that has just enough distinction and relevance to catch their eye is what they are hoping to find.With these assumptions in mind, be prepared to write your cover letter in as targeted, economic and powerful way as possible. Pack as much punch into the fewest number of words as you can.Cover letter sectionsThere are three basic parts to a cover letter - the introduction, the body and the closing. Here are things to keep in mind when writing each of the three parts.There are four ways to go about writing the introduction or opening:• Traditional: Simply give your reason for writing, as in, "I am writing to express my interest in..."• Creating curiosity: Begin with a stunning achievement, such as, "After a five-year commitment dedicated to the welfare of Somali refugees, I am now ready to add value to your..."• Leveraging referrals: Mention the name of a trusted resource, as in, "Following the recommendation of your colleague Jim Hudson, I am eager to speak with you about..."• Emphasize your headline: Point out your value proposition, as in, "As a network systems analyst with extensive business development experience, I..."The body is the most important part of the cover letter. It is here where you make the sale by describing pointedly why are you are qualified for the specific position to which you are applying.Nothing speaks to qualifications better than actual accomplishments and results you have realized from your career thus far. Just like we're more inclined to purchase a mutual fund with an impressive performance history, the same goes for a job candidate who can claim rich achievements.Since your resume should have a store of these attainments, harvest it for summary items to put into the cover letter body. Just be sure to paraphrase and rewrite so that your cover letter doesn't look like a copy and paste job from your resume.Also, the more you understand the employer and his or her needs, the more direct can be your selection of relevant accomplishments.The closing should be - you guessed it - brief and should execute two things. One, confidently express why you deserve a closer look by the hiring manager and two, indicate your expectation for a follow-up with the company.For example, "Acme's services, market prominence and expansion potential are very appealing, and I am convinced my skills will advance me as a key player within your company. I will contact your office in one week to inquire about when it might be convenient to meet. Thank you for your consideration."As the saying goes, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, so make your cover letters count.Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, also is a regular blogger on NHBR Network. He can be reached at 603-724-2289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.