Thursday, June 17, 2010

5 Tips for Eye-Catching Resume Cover Letters

Resume cover letters can be very boring – mine have been in the past. The next time, I’ll keep these five points in mind. See what you think – maybe they can help you as well.

Focus on the Employer and the Future
The cover letter shouldn’t duplicate the resume. While the resume focuses on you and your past accomplishments, the cover letter should focus on the employer and the future. Your goal is to clearly illustrate the value that you can bring to their company.

In Brazen Careerist: New Rules for Success, Penelope Trunk says that every line of your resume should include a specific reason for hiring you.

Keep it Short and Punchy
Keep your cover letter short and memorable. Provide the employer with sound bites that help them identify and remember why they want to hire you.

Convey personality and enthusiasm. One effective way to do this is by recounting a specific incident – for example, how you discovered the importance of occupational therapy as a first-year Candystriper or the day you discovered the secret to sky-high sales.

Make sure your language is full of energy – action words like ‘achieved,’ ‘exceeded,’ and ‘accomplished.’

Tweak their Curiosity
Your goal is to stand out from a stack of uniform, uninspiring applications. So start with a bang. Highlight your greatest strength or tell an amusing anecdote. I once applied for a job with a museum and recounted how I’d managed to visit 5 museums during a 3½ day visit to Madrid.

Imitate Steve Jobs and include “just one more thing” as a postscript to your letter. The PS will stand out from the body of your letter, so make the content count – an award you received or an outstanding achievement.

Include a personal branding statement at the top or bottom of your letter. This is a short summary of what you have to offer – the combination of skills and experience that makes you unique.

Don’t Forget the Eye Candy
Cover Letters for Dummies by Joyce Lain Kennedy really brought home for me the importance of using formatting and graphics to highlight key information. This extends from bolding key words and phrases to incorporating a box with three key skills as bullet points. If the numbers are impressive, why not include a small, simple graph? Or you can include a sidebar with quotes from past evaluations or employers.

And don’t forget! Your contact information should be front and centre – an attractive letterhead containing all the relevant information will not only provide the relevant information but will also catch their attention.

You Require – I Offer
Be sure to match what you have to offer with what the employer is looking for. Mimic the words used in the job ad as this will indicate that you understand their organization and their needs. I once asked a customer why they had hired me, and they said it was because my proposal showed that I understood what they were looking for.

One eye-catching way to highlight what you would bring to an organization is to prepare a simple two-column chart listing what the organization is looking for and what you have to offer – ‘Your Needs’ and ‘My Qualifications.’

For more ideas on preparing a killer resume, see:
     Writing a Killer Resume
     Want a Job? What do you have to Offer?
     Resume + Portfolio = Success
     Resumes: Identifying and Describing your Talents

2 comments:

Jen said...

Wow, I wish I would have read that (or they would have taught me that in school) 9 years ago! Although then I might not be working at Axon and then I might not have met you and I wouldn't be reading your blog or even making this post! Craziness! Excellent and very helpful information!

Penny McKinlay said...

Thanks, Jennie. I would hate to see you leave Axon. So don't let my blog posts give you any foolish ideas!