The job market is very competitive today, so if you want to be hired, you must make your cover letter stand out from the herd. You don't have to use gimmicks, like a DVD presentation or a video cover letter. Standard cover letters are still the norm, though they may be sent over email rather than regular mail. Therefore you need to know how to give your cover letter a makeover so that it will catch the attention of the person who is hiring and hold that person's attention. Follow these cover letter tips and you'll find yourself seriously competing for more jobs than you may have thought possible.
As cover letter tips go, the first may sound clichéd, but it only does so because it's absolutely true. You must grab your reader's attention with your first sentence. You'll get nowhere with vacant first sentences like "I am applying for the position of widget manager in your New York office." Instead, you should summarize the skills and experience you bring to the table: "As widget manager for Amalgamated Inc. I have a proven record of keeping projects on time and under budget, and I would bring this, and my five years of relevant experience to the position of widget manager in your New York branch." You must let the employer know what's in it for them.
Think of your cover letter as an advertisement for yourself. Then think of the ads that are most effective. The most effective ads are the ones that tell you what benefit you will gain from a product or service. For example, if an ad says that a new hard drive has 500 GB of storage, it may sound impressive, but what's even more impressive is when it tells you how you can benefit from it: "You can store thousands of high quality images, documents, and videos without worrying about running out of disk space." Make your cover letter an ad for yourself and tell your potential employer what they'll be getting if they hire you.
One of the best ways to show your future employer what they'll gain from hiring you is to match up their job requirements with specific qualifications you have. Here is an example:
"Your job description requires someone who can perform scans with gamma cameras and scanners. I have spent three of the past five years performing scans in the nuclear medicine unit of Bayview Hospital under the direction of the department's lead technologist. You also require the skills necessary to care for patients of all ages. In my current position, I have experience caring for pediatric and geriatric patients, and ages in between."
If you can do this for each job you apply for, you will have access to far more jobs than if you are vague about your qualifications.
And although there's no way to avoid talking about yourself in a cover letter, you don't want it to be a long string of "I" statements. After 100 words or so of "I was captain of the company softball team, and I worked overtime every weekend for six months …" ad nauseum, your potential employer will probably become bored or find you remarkably self-centered.
Whenever you're able to include "you" statements in your cover letter, you're using one of the most powerful advertising techniques known. Lists of the words that get the most powerful responses in advertising almost always have "you" at the very top.
Think about songs, books, or poems you like best. Most of the time you like them because you feel like they're speaking directly to you in some way. If the reader of your cover letter feels like you are addressing him or her, you'll definitely stand out from the rest. "Your company will benefit from my six years of experience in using AutoCAD to design HVAC systems like the ones your company builds" is far more effective than "I have six years of experience using AutoCAD to design HVAC systems."
Finally, though it's included in every list of cover letter tips, it bears repeating: thoroughly check your cover letter for spelling and grammatical mistakes. Sometimes having a friend check it for you helps catch mistakes that you might miss.