How to Write an Effective Cover Letter
I have seen thousands of cover letters and in one to two seconds, they ended up in the "probable" or "no way" pile, there was very little middle ground. Consider your cover letter not only as an advertisement for yourself, but as your first actual task for your prospective employer. It is the ultimate first assignment and your performance is likely in competition with many other applicants.
This one short document should set you apart in a clear fashion. It say much about your skills, experience, personality, focus level and work ethic, concisely. The words should jump off of the page, to get yourself in the "probable" pile.
Keys to an effective cover letter:
1: Keep it SHORT and RELEVANT. No one needs to know about your hobbies, interests or kids in this letter.
2: State how your talents (skills, experience, personality) will help THEM. Reverse the field and put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes. What do THEY want to see in a prospective candidate.
3: Have someone (preferably two people) proofread your letter. If you are one of those people who doesn't know the difference between "to" and "too", "your" and "you're", "there" and "they're", for example, make certain that your proofreaders do. There is no bigger turnoff than reading a letter from a prospective job applicant who cannot spell simple words. It screams carelessness.
4: Be friendly but factual. The letter should be an clear indication of the person that this company will see on a daily basis, if hired. Excessive wordiness and rambling is a no-no, just as it would be on the job. If there is a hint of annoyance, you likely will not get called in.
5: Specifically ask for a job interview. "I am respectfully requesting a formal interview to further discuss how I can help to move your company forward".
6: Thank them for their time.
7: End it.
First impressions are lasting. Never is this more true than with a job seeking cover letter. Much can be said in a few words and NOTHING can be said with many words. Be ever mindful of this. The key is to get in the door, where you can then expand upon yourself and answer specific questions.
If the job ad requests references, make sure that you include them. I have received countless letters stating "References available upon request", although the request was clearly stated in the ad. This implies that you cannot follow simple instructions and that I will constantly have to follow up on you. No thanks.
If the job ad calls for a desired salary range, include it (see above).
The tone of this article may appear harsh. This is intentional. You only have a one or two second window to appeal to a hiring manager. It is imperative to be keenly aware of this beforehand, to give yourself the best opportunity to obtain your desired position.