Writing the Dreaded Cover Letter: It’s Not About You

There is something about the cover letter that strikes fear in the heart of most job-seekers. If not fear, then fatigue; the fatigue that comes from finally getting your resume completed and realizing there is still one major step left to tackle.

Writing a cover letter is an art, not a science. A good cover letter is a marketing document created to introduce you and showcase your skills to a prospective employer. If done correctly, this letter should frame how your skills and experience can help the organization in as specific a way possible. If you’ve done your online research, you should have no problem turning your cover letter “template” into a highly personalized document that shows the employer you’re ready to go to work for their company, right now.

Remember: It’s not about you; it’s about the company.

Don’t talk about how you would “love the opportunity to work there”, or you “would really value the knowledge and experience gained”! The person on the other end of your letter should be convinced that you can help the organization solve a problem or meet a challenge. If you have not succeeded in making that case, it is unlikely you will be invited to interview. It is that simple.

I’ve said this before, but under no circumstances is it appropriate to address a letter “To Whom It May Concern”, or “Dear Sir/Madam”. Do the research to find the name of the hiring manager before sending your resume and cover letter.

Here’s an excellent post on writing an effective cover letter, to help in your efforts.

What cover letter tips would you give to fellow job seekers? If you are a recruiter, please tell us what helps you decide whether you read a cover letter, or not? I look forward to hearing from you!


About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor who works with mid-career executives and young adults to help them identify their unique value in the marketplace and explore alternative careers. Allison is the author of an upcoming book In the Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigation Skills for Young Adults, to help young adults from late high school through college develop strengths and interests and match them to internships, coursework and, ultimately, the right job.

Cheston blogs frequently on career issues for young adults at her own blog, In the Driver’s Seat as well as at Forbes. She also blogs for mid-career professionals at The Examiner. You can reach Allison on Twitter.

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