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Your cover letter is key to getting a job

By Kip Carlson

It’s no secret that when employers look for new employees, they’re seeking people who go beyond doing the minimum.

Employers want people who are excited not just about having a job but passionate enough about the work they’re doing to want it done well.

There’s a way to get that across to an employer before you ever meet them: your cover letter.

A well-written cover letter convincingly conveys why you’re interested in a job and can place you above other applicants, heightening your chances of getting an interview.

Even if a job posting’s application instructions don’t request a cover letter, craft a personal, persuasive cover letter and submit it with your resume and/or application. Do that, and you’re telling them not only why they should hire you but also indicating that the job means enough to you to do a little extra to get it.

Remember, your cover letter isn’t simply putting your resume into paragraph form. Your cover letter should work with your resume.

The resume is your laundry list of qualifications for the position, while your cover letter is you telling them why you’re the person they should hire.

Your cover letter should be no more than one page, and your contact information should be at the top in the same style as your resume to give the application package a consistent, professional appearance.

If at all possible, address it to a specific person rather than “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern.”

Don’t start your cover letter the way everyone starts a cover letter, telling them that this letter and the accompanying resume are your application for such-and-such position. Instead, come up with a hook, just like you were writing an essay. You want to get their attention – perhaps something about why you’re interested in that work, perhaps why you want to work for that company.

The more personal you can make it, the better:

Ten years ago, we had to put my grandfather in an assisted living center. I visited him often, and on those visits I saw how the staff members, who hadn’t known grandpa more than a few weeks, were so careful to make sure he was safe and comfortable and happy. I decided I wanted to do that for someone else someday. That desire to serve others, as well as my healthcare training, means I’ll be an outstanding caregiver at Jones Senior Center.

Part of the letter should be a translation between your resume and their job description. Paint the picture for them of how you’ll use the experiences and skills in your resume to do the job they have open, and do it well:

My four years behind the counter at Bob’s Burgers gave me the opportunity to serve customers of all ages and backgrounds. This experience means I’ll be able to step into a customer service role at Gimbel’s Department Store and be able to relate to all types of people.

You’ll also want to discuss how you fit in their organization. This will mean doing some homework on the employer. Check their website or other literature for a mission statement of statement of values, and put those to use:

I’m eager to become part of Smith Auto Center’s commitment to making auto care environmentally friendly. I’ve worked to make my personal life as easy on our planet as possible and appreciate the opportunity to do that in my professional life as well.

Then close in a way that lets them know – without being cocky – that they’ll be calling you for an interview:

The chance to be a machinist at Black & White Manufacturing is an exciting opportunity. I look forward to discussing it with you further.


Jane Doe

To get help with a cover letter or resume, to set up a mock job interview to practice for the real thing, or to find job possibilities on Chemeketa CareerLink, visit Chemeketa’s Career Services staff.

Appointments can be made on ChemekNet or by visiting our office. Career Services is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in Bldg. 2-115.

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