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Cover Letter Writing 101: Make That First Impression Count

by Jennifer Martin
Marketing Specialist

November 09, 2015

Make your first impression your best impression

You want to set yourself apart. You want to make the best impression possible. You don’t want to settle for mediocrity. Most importantly, you want the job. Mom always said “put your best foot forward”, and now is the time to do it. There’s a reason you’re working towards your degree, and landing that perfect job should be top on your list of goals.

A resume is only the sum of the parts of a person, which is why a strong cover letter is key. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so your cover letter and resume need to do the talking for you when you’re applying for jobs. Employers will read both the cover letter and resume before they invite you for an interview—and if your cover letter doesn’t leave a strong impression, they won’t bother with reading your resume, which could eliminate you from the interview pool regardless of your skills.

There are some things that are obvious when composing your cover letter (like good grammar!), so aside from the obvious, here are some helpful tips to guide you towards an effective “first impression”:

Let your resume do the talking
Your cover letter should provide some insight as to who you are and what your personality and style are like. No need to give an overview of what the reader will see when they get to “page 2”, because as long as your cover letter is compelling they will turn the page and see for themselves. Share what about the position you’re applying for drew you to it, and what expertise you have in that career field. Showing your true desire and knowledge about the career field will help you up the ante, and get your resume read with enthusiasm as opposed to having it tossed to the side due to lack of interest in getting beyond page 1.

Be. Brief.
Your resume will tell the story. Your cover letter should give the intro. Say what needs to be said and move on so you don’t run the risk of your reader doing just that to your application and your chance at an interview.

Know your reader
Are you directing your resume to the Human Resources Manager? Vice President? CEO? Make absolutely sure who you’re sending your resume to, so you can use the proper opening for your cover letter. If you’re not sure or it’s unclear who you should send it to, simply leave the “Dear so-and-so” part off and jump right into the letter.

Proper attachment type? PDF!
It’s easier to send your cover letter and resume in a file type that is universal to open, rather than as a .doc, .docx, or .pages file, because you likely won’t know what office suite programs are being used by the company you’re applying to. Regardless of who has what, it’s a safe bet that everyone uses Adobe and thus can open a .pdf file with ease. Your formatting will remain intact, your resume has no chance of being altered, and it’s a cross-platform program that just about everyone uses. Imagine all the time you invested into perfecting your cover letter and resume being mangled because of a conversion issue—eliminate the possibilities and play it safe. PDF it!

Open strong, close strong
Your reader will have a snapshot of who you are and what position you’re applying for, so there’s no need to state the obvious up front. Likewise, when you’re concluding your letter, finish concisely and simply tie the knot. Summarize how your background and experience make you the right fit, and how it stands to benefit the company. Be brief here, because if they already like what they read, they will continue reading your resume.

The ultimate function of your cover letter and resume is to land you the opportunity for an interview. Remember that less is more, get to the point quickly, and say what needs to be said. The rest can come directly from you, during your interview.

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