Conversation on Community
Richard Longworth, senior fellow of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an expert on globalization's impact on the Midwest, spoke with WMUK in Kalamazoo leading up to his participation on the September 11 "Albion Tomorrow" panel discussion.
Make Your Cover Letter Count in a Competitive Job Market
Today’s primary modes of communication are e-mail, text messages, and web pages. The job search process is no different. Most job searches are done on the Internet, and job seekers e-mail their resumes or complete online applications.
Given these facts: Are cover letters still necessary?
While the answer varies, the majority of human resource representatives and recruiters say yes. Done the right way, a cover letter can capture the second glance needed in a competitive job market.
There are two tips for crafting a catchy cover letter: follow the formula and personalize it.
Tip #1: Follow the formula
Cover letters contain four components with one essential question answered in each.
Paragraph One – Introduction
Who are you and why are you writing?
Paragraph Two – Highlight of Qualifications
How has your education, previous employment, or other experiences repared you for the position?
Paragraph Three – Connection to the Company
Why is this company or job a good fit for you?
Paragraph Four – Closing Statement
How interested are you and where can you be reached for an interview?
Tip #2: Personalize it
Paragraphs one and four follow standard formats. The opportunity for your application to connect with a recruiter is in paragraphs two and three.
Paragraph Two: Draw attention to yourself
When you read the job description and you declared, “I’m perfect for this job!” Tell the recruiter why. Is it because of a particular course you studied? Did you complete an internship that allowed you to perform similar duties and responsibilities? Were you able to develop a skill set through a part-time job or campus activity that is applicable to this position?
Make the connection between your past and this job. Don’t repeat your resume, but rather make reference to items on it that you especially want the recruiter to be aware of.
Paragraph Three: “Professional Flattery”
Your job search will reveal many positions for which you are qualified, but not all of them are of interest. What makes this position or company different? Pinpoint specifics about the job description that catch your eye. Research the organization. If the company product or workplace philosophy is appealing, tell the recruiter why.
Avoid empty compliments. Recruiters can spot meaningless sweet talk a mile away.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Applicants sometimes forget professionalism, and even common sense, when it comes to e-mailing and the job search. If your e-mail contains any of the following, hit the delete button.
- Greeting the recruiter by their first name. If you know the recruiter’s name, don’t forget that Mr. or Ms. is still necessary. Just because Ms. Jane Doe lists her first name doesn’t mean you can call her Jane.
- A salutation that doesn’t begin with “Dear.” This is a business letter. Beginning the correspondence with “Greetings,” “Hello,” or “Hi There!” is not acceptable.
- Emoticons. 8-) :-( ;-) Emoticons are used to convey attitudes or emotions, both of which are irrelevant in a cover letter.
- Acronyms. LOL, COB, FAQs. As with emoticons, acronyms have no place in job-search correspondence, unless they are standard acronyms, such as that used for a company or association. For example: NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) is appropriate. “The 411 about NACE is very positive” is not.