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Pair Your Powerful Resume with a Great Cover Letter

Every great resume deserves a great cover letter.

A cover letter is crucial because it's the first thingthe hiring manager sees. And you only have seconds tograb his or her attention. So, you have to make surethe cover letter stands out from the dozens--or maybeeven hundreds--of others that cross the hiringmanager's desk each week.

You might ask, why bother at all with a cover letter?If I only have a few seconds to grab a recruiter'sattention, why not do it with a resume? The answer is,that even the best resume is a rather dry listing ofaccomplishments and abilities. By definition, it's asummary.

But with a cover letter, you have an opportunity to leta little bit of your personality shine through and totalk directly to the hiring manager. Plus, it's yourchance to show off a little of what you know about thecompany and to tell why you're interested in the job.

Use the steps we've outlined here and you'll be well onyour way to a dynamite cover letter.

Tip #1: MAKE A CONNECTION

There are 3 basic parts to making a connection:

1. Draft a strong opening paragraph.

2. Show your personality.

3. Research and target your audience.

* Draft a Strong Opening Paragraph.

You must capture the hiring manager's interestimmediately. The best way to do this is with a dynamicopening sentence and paragraph. Be sure to refer to theposition you're vying for, and state why you arequalified for the job.

Remember to frame your statements in terms of how youcan benefit the company, not the other way around.

If you can, mention the name of someone the hiringmanager knows and respects. For example, you could say,"Joe Smith recommended that I contact you about youropening for a shift manager." Or, "My associate, JanetBrown, told me such wonderful things about JonesCompany that I couldn't wait to send you my resume."

Rhetorical questions that make the hiring manager thinkcan also work well. This should be a question that canlead into some way that you can benefit the company.For example, "Are you struggling with the rising costsof [fill in the blank]? I can cut your costs by 30%.Here's how..."

Beginning with a quote is another good way to grab thereader's attention. Although you must choose your quotewisely. And then you have to make sure you transitioninto the rest of your letter gracefully.

It's also important to know what tone to set in thisopening paragraph. In some cases, this may depend onthe industry in which you're trying to get a job. Forexample, a friendly, informal tone may work well ifyou're applying to a small, entrepreneurial company.While a more formal, professional tone might workbetter for a large law firm or corporation. On theother hand, a bold statement might work really well ifyou're seeking a leadership or sales position.

* Show Your Personality

While your writing style should be matched to youraudience to some extent, as explained above, it shouldalso reflect your personality. Start to give yourprospective employer a sense of who you are and whatyou value.

* Research and Target Your Audience

You want to sell the hiring manager on the belief thatyou're a great fit for the company. The only way to dothis is if you know enough about the company tounderstand what makes it tick. Be sure you've taken thetime to learn a bit about their mission, theirproducts, their history, and their goals for thefuture. This will help you communicate hiring you willbenefit them.

Always address the cover letter to a specific person.

Take the time to call the company if necessary to learnthe name of the person doing the interviewing. This, initself, says a lot about your initiative and attentionto detail.


Tip #2: SELL YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Your cover letter should sell you as the product. So,make sure you know what skills the company needs andthen describe how you have what they are looking for.Pick one or two of your best accomplishments orabilities, and highlight them in your letter. Sure,they're listed on your resume too, but this tacticmakes sure the hiring manager sees them right away.

If it makes sense to list a few accomplishments, thenlist them as bullets. This will draw the reader'sattention to that section of the letter right away. Andafter all, what you have to offer is the most importantpart of this letter.

Tip #3: CLOSE THE LETTER

Powerfully Ideally, you want to leave your readerhungering to know more about you. But you also want tobe proactive. So, rather than ending your letter withthe common statement, "I look forward to your call,"say you'll call them in a few days to arrange a time tomeet. If you don't have a phone number, and couldn'tfind on during your research, then try to provide anincentive for them to call you.

Some people say they're going on vacation or out oftown after a certain date and ask to meet prior tothat. Others say they'll be in an area at a certaindate and time and ask for the interview during thatperiod. Be creative, but make it as real--and company-oriented--as you can.

Tip #4: MAKE IT PLEASING TO THE EYE

Finally, it's important that your cover letter be easyto read and professional looking.

Kathi MacNaughton, a freelance writer and editor, hasyears of management and recruitment experience. Fortips & advice on writing powerful resumes & coverletters, seehttp://www.powerful-sample-resume-formats.com.Copyright 2004 Kathi MacNaughton. All rights reserved.


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