The cover letter is a sales page. Make the reader want to learn more about what’s for sale — you. With only eight to 15 seconds to grab the reader’s attention, you need to set yourself apart from the other applicants right away. If the cover letter doesn’t create that interest, then all the work that went into your resume will be for naught.
Just like a resume gets you an interview offer, the sole purpose of a cover letter is to generate enough interest the reader will want to go on and read your resume. Just as with your resume, you’ll also want your cover letter targeted to a specific position.
Limit your cover letter to one page. Any more and you are rambling and in danger of losing the reader. While there are many different formats, most cover letters generally follow a 4-paragraph pattern. Within the one page, mentally divide your cover letter into three main sections: Opening, Body and Closing paragraphs.
Paragraph one is an introduction about you and the job for which you are applying. Write a brief statement of who you are (an Executive Assistant, degree in business administration, etc.), the job you are applying for (executive Assistant) and how you found out about the job (website, ad, recommendation from a friend or current employee in the company).
The body of a cover letter is usually two paragraphs. The information in it should create an interest so the reader wants to learn more about you by going on and reading your resume.
In the first paragraph, mention how your education and experience fill the requirements of the position by highlighting a few relevant points from your resume. Remember these points should complement your resume and not merely be a restating of what is already in your resume.
For the second paragraph, one common tactic common is the headline-benefit-example format.
What do all great sales letters have in common? An enticing headline. In this paragraph, ask a question, such as “Is the lack of an organized office wasting several hours of your boss’ day?” You already know the answer is “Yes” from your analysis of the job posting.
After the headline, write some text that shows (not tells) how you can fill the needs of the company (but not repeating the same information in your resume). Write the benefit you bring to the table to solve the problem; something like “My computer and organization skills are a valued asset because I can streamline and automate office administrative procedures, thereby ensuring my boss can maximize his time for more pressing matters.”
Now, wrap up the body by giving an example of how you used this benefit in the past: “When hired into my last position, the office was in complete disarray. I used my organization and computer skills to organize all the files, create a customer database and streamline office procedures, thereby saving my boss several hours a day.”
Keep the focus on your headline, benefit and example by:
- stating the need of the employer;
- iterating how you can solve their problem; and
- creating a further desire to read your resume.
This paragraph closes the letter by thanking the reader and offering a call-to-action, which is usually asking for an interview. This is where many applicants go wrong – they don’t ask for the interview. Now is not the time to be bashful.
End your cover letter with a call-to-action–something along the lines of: “At your convenience, I look forward to speaking with you about setting up an interview time“.
That’s it, you’re done! Now all that is left is to either mail, drop-off or upload your resume and cover letter so that it is received before the closing date of the job and wait.