The most effective cover letters are targeted.

Cover letters are often the first impression as you approach someone about an opportunity. It is arguably one of the most important documents in your career search tool box. A template can help you develop key phrases that effectively portray your strengths and assets. On the other hand, it can sound very canned and impersonal. In the past as a recruiter, I knew instantly if someone was sending me their pre-made cover letter or if they had written a letter directly to me. I was always more impressed by the letter which demonstrated their knowledge about my company and addressed the key points in my advertisement. A more effective alternative to a cover letter template is to use this formula instead:

1.) Why them: There are a multitude of opportunities. Why are you interested in theirs specifically? What draws you to them? Their culture, mission, values, achievements? Research has proven that the best employees are ones that believe in the company, so companies are recruiting for that quality.

2.) Why you: This section should mirror the advertisement and the company’s website and draw connections between you and them. Address directly how you meet the requirements of the job using concise and powerful statements. Pull transferable skills and experiences from you work history to demonstrate you have the qualifications they are looking for in their next team mate. 

3.) Call to action: Why are you approaching them? Is it to ask for an interview? After reading to this point, they should be as excited about you as you are about them, so confidently ask for the interview.

Always begin the letter with a specific salutation, never a generic “To whom it may concern.” If you don’t have a specific name, then use the company name because the person reading it will identify as being a part of that company. At the end of the letter, always be gracious and relay your appreciation for their time and consideration.

Targeted cover letters have a much higher return on your time investment. Start by taking notes as you research the opportunity. Weave your notes into the formula above, drawing connections to yourself and you’ll have a strong effective cover letter that will stand out from the stack.

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