How to Write a Cover Letter for Maximum Impact

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how to write a cover letterToday a client asked me to explain the differences between the resume and the cover letter. Many people assume that the cover letter is just a formality and simply something hiring managers and recruiters have come to expect. But the cover letter can serve a much higher purpose.

Job search is about building relationships and proving to a prospective employer that you are a good fit for the organization and someone who will forge a positive relationship with the firm. Your cover letter is your first opportunity to establish rapport with an employer.

With a style that's less "formulaic" than the resume, the cover letter allows you to interject more about your personal brand and competencies and identify your reasons for career progressions, shifts, and detours. In a sense, the cover letter humanizes the process of search and lessens the tedium managers face when combing through a mountain of resumes.

In addition, a good cover letter addresses the employer's needs and showcases the candidate's ability to figure out employers' problems and proactive solutions. So next time you draft a cover letter, think of it as a key "touch point" with a hiring manager, rather than a required form letter

Here are some tips for writing more powerful cover letters.


1. Match your qualifications to the requirements of the job.

Create a cover letter that addresses each job requirement point by point. The stronger the match you can make between the two, the greater the likelihood of securing an interview. If the job description lists five core requirements and you are only proficient in two of them, the fit is not strong and it may not be an appropriate position for you to apply to. If the position description lists five requirements and you can speak to four or more of those requirements, the position is probably a good match.

Your Selection Criteria

Demonstrated high-level research, analytical, oral and written communication skills; Experience preparing intelligence reports and delivering briefings.

My Value Added

Uncovered over $60M in fraudulent banking transactions and all related financial documentation in conjunction with investigative role for XYZ Government Agency. Documented findings for Committee's reports on program infractions to government officials.


2. Build rapport with your audience.

Discuss relevant business issues and ask thought-provoking questions to show your reader that you recognize their needs. Offer strategic solutions that position you as a thought leader who can add immediate value to the organization.

The higher education needs of students, parents, and employers have changed dramatically over the past decade. For over 10 years, as a higher education senior administrator at Brookdale University and Bergen College, I have embraced change and introduced creative and more flexible curriculum that cater to the needs of the 21st-century student. My passion for education and my expertise in analyzing processes and people have contributed to my successes in program development, curriculum redesign, blended, virtual, and experiential learning, and administrative process re-engineering.


3. Begin your cover letter with a compelling statement.

Rather than starting your cover letter with a reference to the position you are applying for, write a statement that aligns you with the organization, industry, or job function you are targeting. Discuss an industry problem or need and prove that you are part of the solution.

Dear Mr. Peters:

The most successful sales representatives are the ones that build relationships, establish trust, and convey authenticity in themselves and the products they represent. As a former social work professional, I needed to meet similar criteria to achieve success in my role. During my 10-year career in social services, I built relationships with clients, medical teams, and government and private agencies to improve the quality of life of the clients I supported.

Recognized as someone skillful in persuading others to my point of view, I quickly gained the trust and respect of my clients and colleagues and the green light to implement innovative solutions and programming for the agencies I partnered with. I came to realize that these are life skills and I continued to leverage my reputation as an effective communicator and strong leader to help benefit the local organizations I volunteered for while later raising my children full-time.


4. Minimize the use of the word "I".

Vary your sentences to keep the reader engaged and don't begin every sentence with "I". Keep the writing style fluid and develop a tone that is somewhat conversational and develops rapport with the reader.

Delivering exceptional customer service for financial services firms is what I do best. Over a 10-year career managing equities and fixed income transactions, I have consistently found ways to maximize client retention and P&L revenue through superior customer service. My experience spans four top-tier companies; JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Citigroup and I have managed transactions for international and domestic equities, government bonds, and prime and sub-prime mortgage deals


5. Ask for the interview.

Create a strong call to action in your letter by expressing your interest in the company and requesting an in-person interview. Reiterate your reasons for feeling confident that you are the right match for the position.

At this juncture, I am confidentially exploring new opportunities within the recording industry. An avid fan of hip-hop music, I believe my affinity for the music and my extensive industry knowledge make me an excellent prospect for your organization. I am confident that I can deliver strong results for your label and look forward to a personal interview.


6. Consider Including a famous quote to make your point.

Incorporating quotes that are relevant to the topics your letter is discussing is a great way to create a memorable letter that connects you to your reader. Quotes on efficiency, innovation, business development, and leadership can add a unique spin to your letter, a compelling value proposition, or a good conversation starter during an interview.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." – John Quincy Adams

Dear Mr. Arnold:

Developing leaders to be the best they can be so they can inspire others is both my expertise and my passion. Whether I'm affecting change in a Fortune 500 company, cross-functional team, or individual, I strive to create opportunities for people to stretch that translate into increased ROI, improved productivity, and a more mission-driven corporate culture.


7. Use a compelling subject line.

When emailing a resume, you are more likely to grab the hiring authority's attention and elicit a call to action if the subject line of your email includes a memorable subject line such as President's Club Sales Manager, Award-Winning Customer Service Representative, or Six Sigma Project Manager.


8. Keep the letter to one page.

Keep your cover letters short and use short paragraphs and bulleted lists to keep the reader's attention and make it easy for them to determine the match between your qualifications and their open job.


9. Address the hiring authority by name.

The likelihood of building rapport with the reader and validating your interest in the job is increased when the inside cover address refers to the specific person rather than "Dear Sir". Whenever possible, sleuth around for additional information on the hiring manager so you can personalize your letter. Try surfing the company website to find the appropriate name or call the company directly to make an inquiry.


10. Reference the position you are applying for.

Be sure to mention the job title and job number in the body of your letter as well as in your email subject line. Many hiring authorities request this information, and your inability to follow their instructions could jeopardize your candidacy and lead them to believe that you have not paid attention to the details of their request.


11. Sign your name.

Sounds obvious, but sometimes people overlook this detail. If you are sending a letter regular mail, include your handwritten signature. If your correspondence is via e-mail, create an electronic signature.

Next: Seven Ways to Improve Your Cover Letter and Get Your Application Noticed

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