If you’re one of the thousands of recent graduates looking for their first full-time professional position, odds are you’ve put some thought into the interview process: What should you wear? What sort of questions will be asked? How do you come across as confident without sounding cocky? While learning the skills to ace the interview is critical (a topic that we’ll be discussing in next week’s blog: stay tuned!), you may never even make it that far unless you pass the first test: the resume and cover letter.
Last week we discussed some strategies for writing a resume that will get you noticed. Today we’ll talk about the other step in landing the interview for your dream job—the cover letter. Many people mistakenly think the cover letter is simply a vehicle for introducing their resume. In reality, the cover letter is the first introduction a potential employer has to your writing skills and professional work and can either make or break your chances of moving on to the interview. Use the following tips to make sure your cover letter stands out from the crowd:
Show off Your Writing Skills: Think of the cover letter as a mini writing sample. Nearly every job you apply for will require strong writing skills—this is your opportunity to show your employer that you can be eloquent and professional, even in simple written communication. Before you send, proofread not only for the basics (i.e. grammar, spelling, punctuation), but also check for writing style and flow. If possible, get feedback from a friend or colleague as well.
Don’t Duplicate Your Resume: When at a loss for what to include in a cover letter, many people simply regurgitate all of the information already provided in their resume, giving a dry blow-by-blow of their employment history. Your cover letter should highlight and expand on the information that is most pertinent to the job at hand. With this in mind, your cover letter should differ for each job you’re applying for. Reference key phrases in the job advertisement itself when appropriate, and relate them to your past experience and strengths.
Give Specifics: As we discussed last week, a strong resume will highlight specific accomplishments that demonstrate your professional skills. The cover letter is an excellent opportunity to further expand on these. Anyone can use glossy adjectives to describe themselves—strong candidates back these up with facts.
Now that you’ve crafted a resume and cover letter to stand out from the crowd, check in with us next week, when we’ll discuss strategies for sharpening your interview skills and landing that job!
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