There are a few reasons as to why you might need to write a cover letter. Maybe you are applying for a job, maybe you are sending a proposal to a potential client, or perhaps it’s more of a networking letter that you need to write. Regardless, the intention is the same. You need to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to learn more about you and what it is that you have to offer.
The attention-grabbing part can be the most difficult, and it may be the most important. Aside from making sure your grammar and spelling are correct, of course. There are some things that you can do to help make it a little easier and ensure your letter makes it to the top of the pile. The key is to start strong; don’t hold back. If you wait until the end to try to grab their attention, they may have already stopped reading.
Being clever does not have to mean clichés or tackiness. You can be thoughtful and intriguing while also sounding intelligent.
Here are seven tips for writing a cover letter:
1. Compliment Their Business
Use phrases that not only let them know that you are familiar with their business or organization but also that you admire it. Don’t be afraid to sing their praises. People like to be complimented. But at the same time, be sure to be genuine. Don’t exaggerate or fictionalize your love to make an impression. Be specific about what it is that you like and say it in a conversational, personal tone.
2. Brag on Yourself
Don’t be afraid to tell them why they should hire or do business with you. That’s the whole point of the process anyway, right? Be specific to the opportunity and mention what it is that you can do to help them achieve their goals. You want them to walk away, saying, “Wow, we need this person.” Pick a specific strength or even an accomplishment to highlight that will make you stand out among the rest.
3. Make a Connection
Is there something that you and the reader have in common? Did you become aware of the opportunity through one of their star employees? Making a mention of these things can help create a mutual connection that will entice them to continue reading. This can also make a good impression by showing your strengths and assets. There isn’t a need to go into great detail; if there is a connection there, it will speak for itself.
4. Be Funny
There is nothing wrong with humor. It humanizes you and can be very attention-grabbing. Be sure to be tasteful, but there is something to be said for making a joke. Of course, it’s critical to do your homework beforehand and make sure the organization is one that would be receptive to this type of thing. A government agency, for instance, might not like an opening line that pokes fun at your never-ending job hunt. However, making your reader smile can be effective more often than not.
5. Keep It to the Point
Cover letters should not be longer than one page, and they should be straightforward and to the point. This is something that has remained consistent over time. Even if you grab your reader’s attention in your opening paragraph, you don’t want to lose it by going on and on for pages more. Your writing should be tight and not overly flowery. It can be a risk to lose someone in the details, so make sure that your letter contains pertinent information in an easy-to-read structure.
6. Be Visually Appealing
The way that your cover letter looks can be enough to grab attention. If you can find a way to incorporate graphics or colors, it just might be enough to make someone read it. While you don’t want to make your documents too busy, there is a definite advantage to giving your pieces a look all their own. Coordinating the cover letter with other submission items can be a great way to set yourself apart. Then once your letter is in their hands, you can ensure it stays there with some of the other strategies listed above.
7. Open Strong
The key is to catch them in the opening. Don’t start with a dull sentence like, “I am applying for the position I saw online.” Be creative; insert some personality. If you lose them in the first sentence, chances are you’ve lost them completely. Make an impact from the beginning and help them visualize what it is you bring to the table that makes you unique.
Writing a cover letter that grabs the attention of a hiring manager just takes a little thought and preparation. Of course, if you're still struggling to come up with the perfect cover letter, you can always hire a resume writer to assist you with the task, or you can use a free online template. Just remember to customize it with your voice and unique skill set and experience.
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- Dawn Berryman is the founder and owner of MarketMommy.com and Market Mommy: The Blog, online marketing resources for mom entrepreneurs. Market Mommy shows moms how and where to market their businesses. She holds a B.A. from Indiana University in English, communications, and journalism and has worked in the marketing/communications field since 2002. She resides in rural Ohio with her husband, three children, and their Wheaten Terrier. Dawn has operated an online business since 2006 and has worked from home full-time since 2017. For more information, please see: Market Mommy.