Six Steps to Writing a Great Cover Letter

Six Steps to Writing a Great Cover Letter

Hello everyone. Today’s post continues our journey to career search success…writing a great cover letter. While some may advise that this step to landing your dream job is unnecessary, I emphatically suggest that it is absolutely essential. As a Human Resources professional, I compare submitting your resume in response to a vacancy announcement without an accompanying cover letter to having a birthday party with no cake. Some people are intimidated by the thought of writing a cover letter, but the process does not have to be stressful. The cover letter is your chance to present your written business case to your potential future employer to prove to them that they need you on their team. We will walk through this tried and true process that will end with your having crafted a captivating cover letter.  Here are the six steps to do just that:

  1. Pick the four most-impactful duty statements;
  2. Explain how your background matches the duty statements;
  3. Research the hiring organization;
  4. Express your unique knowledge, skills, and abilities that distinguish you from the other applicants;
  5. Draft cover letter;
  6. Use your closing to express your continued interest and to ask for the job.

You may be wondering how to determine the four most impactful duty statements.  In order to accomplish this task, you must study the vacancy announcement, and believe it or not, it is not very difficult.  You see, duty statements are typically listed in vacancy announcements from the most important, down to the least important.  As with any other “rule,” there are definitely exceptions to this one.  Also, if you have worked in the career field for which you are aspiring, you likely already have a good idea of which duties are the most-positively-impactful to the organization as well as to your career success.  While this may not be true in every instance, it is true more often than not.  I think that you will agree that a highly-impactful duty statement for an Accountant might be to analyze Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that contain financial data, but ordering office supplies most likely would not be highly-impactful duty statement.

My initial review of the vacancy announcement is to get a feel for how closely the employer’s expectations match my expectations, as a potential employee, regarding the duties that I would like to perform.  If I am still interested after the initial review, I conduct my own job analysis of sorts.  I     begin by highlighting the top four duty statements.  You can accomplish this by printing a hard copy of the announcement and using a traditional highlighter to mark the top four most-important ones.  Another way to accomplish the same task is to use a soft copy of the vacancy announcement in Microsoft Word or Adobe, and utilize the respective highlight tool to mark the top four duty statements.  You can also insert comments (i.e., on which job(s) you gained relevant experience; how many years relevant experience you possess, etc.).  Once you complete your review and make notes, you can either save it to a flash drive, to the cloud, or email it to yourself.  You can also save it to your computers hard drive, but that would limit its accessibility in case of a telephone interview at a time during which you are unable to access your computer.  If you are like me and not only want to reduce the number of trees killed each year; but also want to have access to your documents from any device when needed, this will quickly become your preferred method of preserving the document related to your job search.  In a later post I will share another little tip to help you keep your job announcements organized when you email them to yourself.

Now you are ready to move on to step two (2) of matching your experience to the job requirements and explaining how your background has prepared you for such an opportunity. So my challenge to you before my next post is to select a vacancy announcement that you would like to apply to.  Follow the steps in this post to identify the top four duty statements and to determine how your background has prepared your position of interest.  My next post will detail how to develop concise explanations that relate directly to the duty statements that you have identified as the most-impactful.

Until then…here’s to successful cover letter writing!

Image compliments of Google image search.

Author: FirstWeb

Who Is Cynthia B. Okonkwo? I am a wife and a mom who is a people person by heart. I live in metro-Atlanta and work as a Human Resources professional and have over twenty-four years experience in the field. My experience includes Compensation, Training, Recruiting, Employee Relations, Benefits, and Selection Procedure Development; however, Employee Relations is my passion because I enjoy interacting with others and helping them to solve problems. I became interested in Human Resources while on a work-study assignment during my sophomore year in undergraduate school. I chose management as my major because I was not quite certain what I wanted to do after college and I knew that an off-shoot of Business Administration was a safe, general choice that could help me get into a number of career fields. My work-study assignment was as an assistant to the campus Director of Career Services. There, I learned to make cold calls to area businesses to seek out employment opportunities for students and alumni. I also learned how to format vacancy announcements and resumes. Since writing had always been one of my strengths, I enjoyed my assignment so much that I requested to be reassigned to that department for most of the remainder of my undergraduate career. My Director also provided resources on job interview preparation and she allowed me to type resumes for students who did not have one and charge $1 per page to make a few extra bucks. I got a full-time job immediately after graduation, but it wasn’t in Human Resources; however, I had a Vice President who took me under his wings and allowed me to review employment applications for job openings at the Distribution Center where I worked, so this helped to strengthen my resume. It took me about two and a half years to secure my first full-time job in the field of human resources where I became a trained test developer for the State’s Government Merit System. From there my career has continued to grow. My blog was born out of my desire to write a book that provides practical job search tips and advice, from a spiritual, holistic perspective. After having drafted about three chapters, I got busy with grad school and obtained my MBA; got married and started a family. In 2013, I became SPHR (Sr. Professional in Human Resources) certified. I started seeing other people’s blogs, became interested and thought that blogging might be a great alternative, or spring board to completing my book, so here we are today. My sincere hope is that what I write will help someone. Enjoy!

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