There are two simple steps for great cover letters:
1. Always include the cover letter in the body of the email you are sending. If the recruiter has to click to open a separate document in order to read your cover letter, chances are that they won’t bother.
2. Target each cover letter to the specific position for which you are applying. Generic cover letters that tell how great YOU are and what YOU want to do without telling the recruiter or hiring manager how you are going to solve THEIR needs are not going to get you an interview.
Okay - Step number 2 does not seem so simple on the surface. But, you can do it by simply selecting the 3-4 most important items from the “requirements” or “responsibilities” section of the job description for which you are applying and stating how you have that experience. Your resume already has your whole history. The goal of the cover letter is to point out that you have what the recruiter is looking for in this particular instance. Don’t make the recruiter hunt through your resume to be sure that you have the right mix of skills.
You can put the information in bullet points or very short paragraphs. Here is an example:
I am very interested in the Human Resources Generalist position that you advertised on CareerBuilder because:
• I have over 15 years of recruiting experience, 5 of which are in the information technology industry.
• I have managed and trained teams of recruiters at my most recent position (Resolvit) as well as at a retained search firm (Roberts Ryan & Bentley).
• I have a Master’s in Human Resources.
• I have a solid track record of developing strong relationships with both internal and external hiring managers at all levels.
Using bullet points prevents “writer’s block” because you don’t have to spend time stringing together the accomplishment sentences. Feel free to cut and paste from your resume. In fact, if there is nothing in your resume that you can copy into the cover letter, you are probably not a fit for this particular position. Bullet points also make it a lot easier for the recruiter to visually scan the letter.