You have read the ads. You’ve studied the online posts. You have heard what employers want. It’s time to give it to them. It is time to work on your cover letter. Cover letters are essential—recent studies show that one-third to one-half of all hiring managers require them, and even more than that read them.
Your resume is fairly standard—the chronology of jobs, the knowledge you’ve gained in the past, your positions and your achievements are not going to change. But potential employers use ads and online posts to list the qualifications most important to them, whether it is a particular skill set or an attitude. Your cover letter is a chance to respond to that list.
Make sure your cover letter echoes the words in the ad or post. If the employer requests experience in a certain industry; familiarity with specific computer systems; the ability to exceed sales quotas—and you meet those qualifications—use your cover letter to explain why you are the perfect candidate. For example, an employer wants a Chief Financial Officer with team-building experience. If you have that experience, note it in your cover letter. (“I excel at selecting key talent and building high-performing, cohesive teams; I also improved productivity and saved $1 million annually by outsourcing support functions.”)
Furthermore, a cover letter is the ideal place to quell any concerns that your potential employer might have about your motivations. You can explain that you’re looking for new challenges or a chance to return to a previous career path.
Your cover letter is an essential part of your resume. Have you worked on it recently?