We’ve all heard the saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. In reality, however, opinions are influenced heavily by our first impressions. In the case of a job application, the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s initial reaction can make the difference between getting an interview or being passed over. A well-crafted cover letter is the perfect tool for shaping those first impressions.
A cover letter gives you the chance to tell your career story in your own voice, connecting the dots between the experiences shown on your resume and the skills required for the job at hand. Use your cover letter to highlight parts of your resume that support the story you want to tell; don’t just rehash what’s in your resume.
Your cover letter should make it easy for a recruiter or hiring manager to read between the lines of your resume and realize why you’re the right person for the job. For example, if you are applying for a management position but have no prior management experience, showcase times when you have excelled in various roles on a project team or assumed other kinds of leadership positions.
If you are trying to change industries or careers, the cover letter becomes especially important. Your letter should shine a spotlight on your career goals and why this job will help you achieve them. You should also point to the specific experiences or capabilities that will allow you to bring a fresh perspective to the company and quickly work your way up the learning curve.
The first step in crafting a good cover letter is to take the time to thoroughly read and understand the job description, as well as any information you can gather about the company. Then, in your letter you should address the specific job requirements and explain why you have what it takes to excel in the position.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good story to move people. When hiring managers are faced with a sea of applications that all blend together, a well-written cover letter can go a long way in putting you at the top of the interview list.