Sunday, November 18, 2007

not getting the interview?

Maybe it's your cover letter. Your resume tells potential employers what your qualifications are, but it's your cover letter that tells them why you're the right person for the job. Here's my secret formula for a killer cover letter. It's worked for me, and one colleague of mine has gotten an interview for every job she's applied to by using this method.

the opening paragraph
Keep your first paragraph brief. Let the potential employer know what position you're applying to and where you heard about it. This is the place to name drop if someone they know recommended that you apply. Complete the paragraph with an overarching statement about how you're the ideal candidate, without going into details – this sentence is merely a set-up for what's to follow.

the body
Choose two or three key traits or skills that are valuable to the position: Do you function well under stress? Are you adept at meeting tight deadlines? Do you have a knack for packaging stories? Write one short paragraph for each, using a specific example from your past to illustrate each point, with the purpose to draw parallels to the position you're applying to. Don't rehash your resume.

the final paragraph
Conclude by asking for the opportunity to discuss further how you can help them (i.e. ask for the interview). Thank them for their time and consideration, then promise to follow up.

Overall, be direct and concise, and use active language. Most importantly, don't lose sight of the fact that it's all about them – how will you solve their problems? They just don't care that this is a great opportunity for you. They want to know how you're going to help them.

Oh, and it better be the best damn piece of work you've ever written.

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