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5 Minutes to a Better Cover Letter2If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’re probably well-aware of the importance of a compelling cover letter. It’s how you can stand out from the crowd, how you can demonstrate a slice of your personality that you really can’t convey in your résumé. It’s also a great way to take a deeper dive into some of your past experiences and really highlight your accomplishments.

How do you write a cover letter that gets noticed? Seems like a daunting task, right?

It doesn’t have to be. I’ve laid out several simple pointers below that will guide you through the cover letter writing process and help you create something that is polished and memorable.

Remember: Cover letters are not just a repeat of your resume—viewing them as such will put you at a serious disadvantage.

Cover Letter Basics:

  • Name, address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Cover letter addressed to a specific person if possible. If individual unknown, send letter to the title of recipient (Production Manager, Technical Director, Human Resources, etc.)
  • State your interest in the position
  • Make note of special skills that qualify you for the job
  • Provide contact info and a time you can be reached
  • Thank the contact and close with “Sincerely”
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your letter and resume—don’t miss simple grammatical errors!
  • Sign your letter with either blue or black ink, NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Be concise and to the point (no cutesy statements or overbearing comments)
  • Use the same paper as your resume
  • Avoid using “I” too often or repeating the same words

Beyond the Basics:

  • Focus on two (or, at the max, three) major accomplishments in your career and really dive into them
  • Use concrete facts whenever possible. For example:
    • I saved XYZ Company $3.5 million dollars in their annual budget by…
    • During my time at ABC Inc., I trained over 200 people in…
    • I helped Company X grow by 4% through my….
    • I was the top salesperson at ABC, Inc., selling $$ annually
  • Let your authentic voice come through, but don’t sound too casual. It’s a fine line to ride and you may need a friend to weigh in.
  • Do your homework. Understand the company’s values and what they’re looking for in a new employee and make sure you highlight those parts of your experience.

Interested in learning more about creating an effective cover letter or interested in consulting a professional to ensure that you land that next job opening? Contact Me Today to learn about career coaching and UXL’s public workshops!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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writing1Just as any good writer must know the subject they’re writing about, a good leader must be able to communicate well, and this includes strong writing.

You don’t need to become a novelist to write well. Whether it is an e-mail, memo, initiative, or presentation, good business writing follows these principles: clarity, succinctness and authenticity. Here are some quick and easy tips to help you write in this manner.

Write Short Sentences That Mean What They Say

Limit sentences to one idea each, only at first. It’s actually pretty hard to write a short sentence that is both clear and to the point. We tend to add words over weak sentences in an attempt to make them more professional sounding, but this usually backfires and makes us sound like we’re trying too hard. As New York Times editor Verlyn Klinkenborg puts it:

“It’s perfectly possible to make wretched short sentences. But it’s hard to go on making them because they sound so wretched and because it’s easy to fix them. Making them longer is not the way to fix them.”

You won’t need lots of big words if the core of your sentence has a strong idea. Once you feel comfortable with short and sweet, you can begin fleshing out your sentences. But only use words you know…

Use Words You Know

I encourage people to use strong action verbs on their resumes. These are words that follow the first two of our three writing principles in that they describe specific actions (clarity) with a single word (succinctness).  You may be thinking, wait, wasn’t I just told to avoid big words? Well, yes and no.

If you can use action verbs appropriately, then please use them and use them often! The trouble comes with those who use words in ways that do not make sense.

If you aren’t sure about a word, don’t use it until you look it up. Be sure to read examples of it used in a sentence.

Write In Your Own Voice

I think many miss the point that writing is an extension of our communication toolkit, and therefore an extension of ourselves. This may be due to negative experiences in school, where it seemed as if all the writing rules smothered a person’s unique voice.

Well, I’m telling you now that writing should always reflect a part of you. You must always be authentic with your words. Don’t betray yourself to big words you do not mean or big ideas you do not believe. Write what you know and what you believe. Disingenuous writing isn’t convincing and hinders real communication within an organization.

In this way, writing can be pretty empowering. You get to share your views in your unique way.

For more specific writing advice, check out my posts on resumes and cover letters.

 

Reference

Klinkenborg, Verlyn. Several Short Sentences about Writing. New York: Vintage Books, 2013, page 11.

 

 

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By Margaret Smith, Professional Life & Career Coach

You are probably all familiar with the daunting task of writing a cover letter, or perhaps you’re facing the task of writing one for the first time. Either way, the quick and easy pointers I’ve laid out for you below will benefit the quality of your cover letter, and better your chances at landing the job.

Remember: Cover letters are not just a repeat of your resume—viewing them as such will put you at a serious disadvantage.

Your cover letter is an opportunity to personalize your introduction, align your skills to the position being targeted, and get noticed.

The objective is to have the cover letter catch the attention of the reader and cause them to pull your resume from the pile of applicants and place it in the pile of potential interviewees.

Cover Letter Quick Tips:

  • Name, address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Cover letter addressed to a specific person if possible. If individual unknown, send letter to the title of recipient (Production Manager, Technical Director, Human Resources, etc)
  • State your interest in the position
  • Make note of special skills that qualify you for the job
  • Provide contact info and a time you can be reached
  • Thank the contact and close with “Sincerely”
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your letter and resume—don’t miss simple grammatical errors!
  • Sign your letter with either blue or black ink, NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Be concise and to the point (no cutesy statements or overbearing comments)
  • Use the same paper as your resume
  • Avoid using “I” too often or repeating the same words

Interested in learning more about creating an effective cover letter or interested in consulting a professional to ensure that you land that next job opening? Contact Me Today to learn about career coaching and UXL’s public workshops!

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