In addition to a user friendly, clutter free resume, in order to secure an interview and a great new job, you’ll need a cover letter. Here are a few tips for perfecting the cover letter:
1) Your cover letter should be brief: No more than a page, including: the date, address and email for you and the recipient, and salutation and closing lines.
2) Each paragraph should have only one purpose. That means that each paragraph should only communicate one theme or focus on a couple of connected ideas. This way, you can construct a cover letter using three or four paragraphs:
- In the first paragraph, express your interest in the role using the exact title of the job you are applying to. Use two or three keywords to describe how your skills align with the requirements of the role.
- Use the next one or two paragraphs (about four sentences each) to provide clear examples of how your experience, skills and accomplishments are relevant to the role. Use an active voice and simple language here.
- Close in the final paragraph (the third or fourth) by expressing your desire to support the organization. You can also make a direct request for a meeting or an interview. If you are really succinct, you can repeat some key skills from the intro to tie the letter together.
3) Keep in mind that your cover letter should augment, not repeat, information from both your resume and the job description. This may sound like a tall order, so let’s look at one example. Let’s say a potential job requires:
- 3 years of experience in Project Management,
- Sound judgement,
- The ability to meet multiple deadlines, and
- Experience working effectively in a team.
Your resume should clearly show that you have the required number of years of experience in a particular field or business area. If it’s not immediately clear from dates of employment and job titles, list years of experience in a field in a summary at the top of your resume. Perhaps you say “delivered multiple complex products on time and on budget” under one or more job descriptions? If you’ve covered this, your cover letter should say something like:
Between 2006 and 2013, I led design and validation teams on multiple, concurrent projects to deliver more than a dozen software products. By initiating novel working relationships with both R&D and Sales & Marketing, my teams were able focus their efforts on unmet software needs. We fulfilled all department and client quality requirements, leading to successful and profitable market launches for each product.
4) Finally, if you have time, print a draft, set it aside and review it in a couple of hours or days. You’ll be surprised to see how much you can improve your writing when you give yourself some time to consolidate information.