When hiring managers, HR pros, and recruiters spot a great cover letter, they get excited about the attached resume and their bar of expectation tends to rise. They develop an unconscious (and sometimes completely conscious) bias in favor of the applicant, and before they read even one word of the resume, they're already rooting for this candidate and hoping that her credentials will further support a pitch that's already starting off on the right foot.
So which cover letters are most likely to generate this positive bias? Here are a few moves that can help you win managers over before they even open your resume file. Great cover letters tend to share the following qualities:
1. They're friendly and confident.
Imagine walking into a room and greeting your reader in person. You want this person to like you, and you want to demonstrate that you like yourself, you know what you want, you know who you are, and you're a well-adjusted, confident, trustworthy person. You convey these traits by making direct eye contact, smiling, and reaching out for a handshake.
You letter will need to send the same message within the first few lines. Don't be wooden, awkward, or apologetic. Just state the name of the position you want and how you found out about it, and do so in a tone that's friendly and forward.
2. They address the position directly and they stay on message.
You may be a smart person, or an interesting person, or a fun person, and these traits may suit the culture of the company and encourage managers to hire you. But keep your self-description focused on the needs of the position and the company. Explain who you are while also explaining how your personality traits and background can specifically benefit your employers.
3. They enlighten; they don't confuse.
Effective writing is clear and easy to understand. When you finish your first draft, go back and check every individual sentence to make sure it 1) makes sense 2) contains both a subject and an object 3) stays relevant to the overall message. Sometimes in their eagerness to impress, candidates let grammatical issues and clarity fall through the cracks or get buried in a sea of buzzwords.
4. They answer four questions.
Every effective cover letter provides an answer to these four questions: 1.) Is the candidate prepared to handle the daily requirements of the job? 2.) Does the candidate really want the job? 3.) Will the candidate fit in and adapt to this company's culture? And 4) Will the candidate actually move the company forward instead of just offering the minimum and holding down the fort?
5. They know when to wrap it up.
Great cover letters find a way to present a complete and compelling message in a short space. Try to keep your letter under 300 words (or a single page), and find a way to make sure those 300 words contain the key points of your candidacy and provide your readers with everything they need to make an informed decision.
For tools and guidelines that can keep your message on track and help you summarize, explain, reassure and dazzle your potential employers, turn to MyPerfectResume.