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How to Make Your Cover Letter a Perfect Fit for Any Opening

Let’s face it, a blanket cover letter just isn’t going to cut it these days.  So how can you make the best use of your time while maximizing your results?  Here are a few simple steps to customizing your cover letters.  (And if you don’t think you SHOULD customize your cover letter for each application you submit, then we have bigger problems than I thought …)

A MEMORABLE OPENER

Here’s a mistake I see more and more job seekers making: the opening line on their cover letter reads, “Please accept this in response to the (position) advertised on month day, year …”  What’s wrong with this kind of opening line?  Everyone uses it.  The point of your job search is to stand out from the crowd—not get lost in the midst of it.  Instead, try using something similar to your branding statement.  You can easily tweak your branding statement to be a customized opening line.

For example: With more than 10 years of profit-driven project management expertise …

What’s different about this opening line?  I’m already addressing the company’s need for a bottom-line-driven project manager; sharing my years of experience; and hitting the job title on the dot.  That’s three big points you’ve scored in the first line alone.

FACTS THAT SUPPORT REQUIREMENTS

After you’ve written your opening lines (which express your interest in the position and introduce you to the prospective employer) immediately jump into how you can meet the organization’s needs based on the requirements the company posted in its online ad or job description.

“I see you are interested in hiring someone with strategic-change management experience.” (Or whatever the key requirement of the position is—highlight it here).  Then tell—or even better, SHOW—the reader why you have that experience:  “In my present role with ABC Distributors, I did XYZ, which resulted in JKL.”  Showing the potential employer—right off the bat—that you possess a desired attribute or requirement for the position will prompt the hiring manager to invest more time in reading your resume.  If your cover letter states—in so many words—“I am the perfect match for your opening, and I can meet/exceed your needs …” then you immediately get my attention, and I’m more likely to invest time in reviewing your resume.  Here’s a tip: do not use bullet points or material word-for-word from your resume; provide the hiring manager with fresh information on your cover letter.

DETAILS ARE IMPORTANT

Here are a few small details to remember when crafting a cover letter to fit a specific opening:

-Make sure that your cover letter heading matches your resume’s.
-Include your branding statement with your header at the top of your cover letter.  It enforces your brand and provides a polished touch.
-Include a quote from a former employer if relevant and hard-hitting.  This is a great way to “sell” what you’re capable of accomplishing for an organization.  If the prospective employer has a specific requirement in its job ad—and you’ve already done that somewhere else and have a great recommendation or quote from a previous supervisor to back it up—WOW!!  There really isn’t any better sales/marketing material than that.  Not much can beat a quote about your results.

    CLOSE WITH CONTACT

    Always offer at the close of your letter to follow up with the employer/hiring manager via phone, e-mail, snail mail, whatever … within a specific time frame (be it one week or two or whenever).  Also, be sure to include your contact information so they can reach out to you.  Keep the closing professional, polished, and concise.  You don’t want to appear desperate or unprofessional.

    Jessica Hernandez is a resume authority for the Job Talk America radio program and multi-published expert author for resume, career, and job search publications.  She boasts more than ten years in human resources management and hiring for Fortune 500 companies and utilizes her extensive experience to support job seekers in their quest to move onward and upward in their careers.  Find out more at http://www.greatresumesfast.com.

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    Jessica Holbrook Hernandez

    A nationally recognized resume expert, Jessica Holbrook Hernandez is President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast and a former human resources manager and recruiter. Leveraging more than ten years’ experience directing hiring practices for Fortune 500 companies, Jessica's innovative and brand-driven resume development strategies have secured a 99.6% interview-winning success rate for her clients. As a global resume authority and trusted media source, Jessica has been featured and quoted numerous times throughout CNN.com, The Chicago Tribune, Monster.com, Local Job Network Radio, International Business Times, and more.
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