Your cover letter and resume are a lot like a hot dog and a bun. Sure, they can function adequately without each other, but together they are an amazingly effective duo that complement each other perfectly. Your cover letter is the bun, the first thing your prospective employer sees that entices the reader to look inside at all of the juicy contents. With this in mind, here are five components that will turn your cover letter into the first step toward the job of your dreams:
1. Address it to a person. In the age of LinkedIn and Facebook connectivity, “To Whom It May Concern” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Use the Internet or make a few phone calls to find out the name of the human resources person responsible for hiring and address your letter accordingly. Doing so shows the recruiter that you cared enough to dig a little.
2. The introduction. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t just the place where you say “I heard about your IT vacancy in my local newspaper and am writing to apply for the position.” Instead, your job here is to sell yourself. As quickly as possible, convey how you—and your skills and experience—will help them get what they need and want.
3. Back up your claims with solid proof. You just talked about your abilities; now, as concisely as possible, elaborate on the types of work you have done that match what the company is seeking in an employee. This can relate to your resume but should not repeat it verbatim.
4. Demonstrate knowledge of your prospective employer. This goes beyond what you might have read on their home page. Dig deep; find out the company’s mission and objectives, their attitude toward competitors and how they have overcome challenges. Then find ways to insert yourself into the picture. Help the recruiter see your role in the company’s future growth and success.
5. Close quickly. Summarize your skills and why your abilities play into the company’s current needs. Then request that they follow up with you at their convenience.
Your cover letter might be only four or five paragraphs long, but every word counts. Best of all, once you have one or two of these that you like, they are relatively easy to customize when a new job opportunity arises. Take the time to craft a cover letter that works for you and you’ll soon be screaming, “hot dog!” when you get the job of your dreams.