5 steps to writing a successful cover letter
Your resume will get you through the door, but your cover letter will prompt employers to want to answer that door in the first place.
By Caroline M.L. Potter
Most folks put (or should put) a lot of effort into crafting a resume that conveys their talents and breadth of experience. But these same people often drop the ball when it comes to crafting a cover letter to complement that important document. This can be a costly error. If your resume gets you in the door, your cover letter is what prompts employers to answer that door in the first place.
If you're intimidated by writing a cover letter, don't be. Job-search expert Deborah Brown-Volkman has an easy-to-follow, five-step formula for cover letter success.
- 1. Cut to the Chase
Brown-Volkman reminds applicants to begin their cover letter by clearly identifying why they're reaching out to a company. "Start by completing the statement, 'I am writing to you today because....'" Cover all pertinent facts, such as the position's title and location. Also include up front where you saw the ad for the position and who recommended you, she says.
- 2. What I Like About You
Brown-Volkman says that flattery will get you everywhere. "Next, complete the statement 'I like your company because....' Compliment the organization on what they have done right and what you admire about them. This will show that you've taken the time to get to know the company in detail," she says.
- 3. What You'll Like About Me
Brown-Volkman urges job seekers to list their most vital qualifications. "Now, tell the employer, 'Here are relevant examples of work that I've done that match what you're looking for.'" Briefly discuss the items you want to showcase so a hiring manager can spot them easily. "Bullet points work well in making your accomplishments easy to read," she says.
- 4. What Else You'll Like About Me
Now, succinctly, personalize your letter. "Describe who you are and what makes you stand out from other applicants," says Brown-Volkman. "Discuss your soft skills and strengths and what you're passionate about professionally." Research the company's mission statement to see if your values match up and use similar language. "This is your last chance to say, 'Here's why I am a good candidate,'" she says.
- 5. And In Conclusion
In your closing paragraph, Brown-Volkman recommends expressing your enthusiasm for a position and an interview and to include a plan of action. "Make note of your contact information and state what the next steps will be," she says. "If you will wait for their reply, tell them that. If you will be following up, tell them when they can expect to hear from you." Don't drop the ball on your first promise to a potential employer, though. "Whatever you put down, make sure you do what you say you will do," she says.