As a part of the Marion Campus Career Week leading up to the public Job, Education & Internship Fair on March 31, Shannon Niedzwicki, Director of the Alber Student Center, offers a series of blogs with tips. Marion Campus students may attend one of her Career Week events to get hands-on help preparing! For more individual help, see Deb Murphy in MTC’s Career Services.
Preparing or writing the cover letter to go with your resume can be a scary proposition. This added piece is essential in the job search process and should not be overlooked. The ONLY time a cover letter is NOT needed is when you are handing out resumes at a job fair or “cold calling” on a potential employer. The purpose of the cover letter is to generate interest, gain the potential employer’s attention, and hopefully get to that next step – the interview. If you are applying for a specific position, you should ALWAYS provide a cover letter.
The biggest misconception about the cover letter is that it should be a reiteration or summary of what’s on your resume. Wrong! The cover letter is your chance to use the description of the job you seek and your research to show your potential value to the company. Here are some tips to help you stand out from the paper crowd:
- Do your research. This is essential for writing a great cover letter. Every cover letter is going to be different and tailored to the specific job. Read the job description thoroughly. Then read it again. What skills and qualifications do you have that match the job description? Browse their Web site to further educate yourself on their programs, plans, and positions.
When writing a cover letter, it is important to make it personal. Find out who you are applying to and address the cover letter directly to them. How many of us like a letter that is addressed “Dear Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern”? Don’t be afraid to call the company’s human resources department to ask to whom the letter should be addressed; if that doesn’t work, look on the Web site or other social media outlets like LinkedIn.
- Use key words from the job description. Using the words the employer is familiar with and is seeking in a new employee may draw more attention to your application, especially if the company uses Application Tracking Software (ATS). For example, if you’re applying for a bookkeeping position, here are some key words you may find: accounting, financial reports, accounts payable, Quickbooks, filing and copying. Include them in your cover letter.
“When I was first hired at State Farm Insurance as a bookkeeper, they gave me some accounting duties to start off with. They were using a manual accounts payable and receivable ledger that was causing the office to be inefficient and overstaffed. Applying the knowledge I have from my QuickBooks certification, I managed to transfer all the manual entries to digital and get adequate financial reports on time. With the new system, I was able to reduce my accounting time by 25 percent and work on other office duties, such as filing, faxing, and copying.”
This is a great example of using the keywords from a job description to enhance your cover letter and get their attention.
- Thank them and ask for an interview. When wrapping up your cover letter, politely thank the recipient for reading your materials and ask for an interview. For example: “Thank you for your time and consideration for this position. I am prepared to deliver great results for your company and would love the opportunity to interview with you.” That should leave the potential employer wondering how you can help and wanting to set up an interview with you.
Remember: the goal is to stand out in the paper crowd. The cover letter can be a big plus if you do it correctly.
By Shannon Niedzwicki, Director of the Alber Student Center on the Marion Campus.