Cover Letter Writing Skills for Career Success

3 min read
Woman with yellow headset and cover letter writing skills typing in her laptop

Getting the cover letter right is still important as the job hiring process has moved inexorably to cyberspaces, it is easy to forget some fundamentals about marketing yourself.

Job board resumes tend to be simple text-based documents, keyword oriented, with some limitations that reduce the opportunity to truly express individuality. They also are a limited job resource as the ‘hidden job market’, those positions uncovered the old fashioned way, networking, and personal contact, still predominate.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Serious with Your Job Hunting Tools?

As a career counselor, I am often amazed (and appalled) at how little many clients understand the importance of job search fundamentals. In fact, almost every level of position demands quality material, job search, and networking strategies, intense research, interviewing skills and negotiation capabilities. Too many of my clients still exhibit dismay that they have posted their resume on all the important job boards, but fail to garner interviews or useful interviews.

Unfortunately, it is often after a long and fruitless job search that they come discouraged and frustrated. And, as frustrating as this is for job search candidates within their own industry, it is even worse for career changers, especially those who have been in one company or one industry for a long time.

For many clients, once we determine a new career direction, too often we need to start over with the basics such as how to write a resume, a cover letter, a broadcast letter, and other job search material. Although the subject of this week’s article is the cover letter, I believe too many people have gotten off track with appreciating the importance of the fundamentals.

Email and the Internet are wonderfully useful tools but are not substitutes for careful, thoughtfully crafted, professional documentation. That process starts with the cover letter. Cover letters in the past tended to be letters of transmittal, brief notes that introduced the resume.

However, today the cover letter has become an important component of the marketing communications package. It is a way to provide focus, list relevant experience and introduce credentials in ways that relate directly to the company and position. It is critical to convey why someone should give you the job and to do that you must sell your qualifications. In past columns, I have emphasized the importance of research into prospective employers.

Why Should You Hone Your Cover Letter Writing Skill?

The cover letter is a powerful way to tell the prospective employer that they are not part of a blanket mailing campaign looking for a few responses. Rather, the cover letter should convey the idea that you have taken the time to research the firm and are familiar with the organization and its strategies and have decided that there is a match between your interests and skills, and their needs. A good cover letter should create an interest that serves as an incentive to read the resume and hopefully extend that interest to a call for an interview. The key is relevance and that takes forethought.

All this must be accomplished without lengthy text and long paragraphs that tire the reader. Nevertheless, it is important to create a theme that describes in a clear and logical way who you are, what position you seek, the value you bring to the organization and your track record of success.

The Power of Cover Letters to Boost Your Career

The cover letter is not a historical narrative, nor can it be a simple lifting of sections of the resume. Key elements of the resume can be communicated, but in ways that are more than repetition, to convey other skills that contributed to specific achievements. The skills that exemplify achievements should be relevant to the new position. Some clients believe that more is better and must be constrained from writing a lengthy job description, point-by-point details of virtually everything they have done.

My job in working with clients is to identify and convey those qualities that would be important in any position. Teamwork, competence, action orientation, innovativeness are some of the important attributes that are valued. Specific skills and attributes should be tailored to the specific letter to each prospective employer.

Ask for the interview. The whole purpose of the cover letter and resume is to obtain an interview, so indicate your desire for an interview and let the recipient understand that you are serious and will follow up with a phone call.

Finally, the writing, style, tone, and presentation should reflect the best that the writer can convey. Professionalism is essential for effective communications and the higher the position the greater the importance.