Regardless of the format, the first thing in your cover letter should be an attention-getting opening paragraph! There are a couple of ways to get the reader’s attention.
1. Let the reader know how you found out about the job opening.
- Were you referred by a current employee?
- Are you a customer, and saw it while shopping on the company website?
Include the reason why you’re interested in the position.
2. The second “must-have” in your cover letter is accomplishments.
Opening a cover letter with your accomplishments is also very attention-getting, so you may consider starting your cover letter with a strong accomplishment.
The reader wants to know:
- What have you done?
- How can you help me?
- Do your previous achievements provide the proof that you can do what you say you can?
Don’t simply restate accomplishments from the résumé. Tell the story behind the numbers. Make sure that the accomplishments you’re showcasing align with the requirements of the position you’re pursuing.
For example, if you’re applying for a sales position, provide accomplishment data that shows how you’ve grown sales revenue or expanded the customer base. However, if the sales role doesn’t include any supervisory responsibilities, don’t talk about how you’ve trained and supervised two customer service associates.
3. The cover letter must include anything specifically requested in the job posting.
For example, salary history or salary desired (although you may want to consider how you answer this question, you should address it in the cover letter). However, do not include salary information unless they specifically ask for it!
Sometimes the hiring manager will also ask for specific information to be included — for example, schedule availability. Make sure you include this in your cover letter, or your application will likely be discarded. The ability to follow directions is something that is easy to discern by asking the candidate to include specific information in the cover letter.
4. End your cover letter with a strong closing statement.
The best closing statement is a call to action — either inviting the prospective employer to contact you, or — even better! — letting him or her know that you will be contacting them to follow-up. Include your preferred contact method and your availability. The easier it is for the hiring manager to reach you, the easier it will be to schedule your interview.
You may also want to address why you’re looking for a new position — but keep it professional. Over-sharing personal details of your life is not the way to progress to a face-to-face interview.
But many hiring managers do wonder — if you’re so good at your job, why are you leaving it? Make sure you are framing the reason in a positive way. Don’t bad-mouth your current employer or co-workers. If you state your reason is to “pursue new opportunities,” everyone can read between the lines!
Instead, focus on how the new job can take advantage of your skills, education, and experience — or don’t address this issue at all in the cover letter.
You can also include your willingness to travel or relocate if desired by the company.
Action Items: Schedule a complimentary career consultation to have your cover letter reviewed.