Roses are Red, Cover Letters are for you…

Do you remember your high school love letters? You know, the ones you wrote to your first crush. I’m guessing yours (like mine) were full of phrases like  “you are peanut butter to my jelly,” or “I want to be with you every moment of every day.”

Yadda, yadda, yadda…

Well, think of your cover letter as a more professional, more prosaic, and much more direct love letter to the job you want.

Writing a cover letter is something that may feel extremely awkward at first, but a quality cover letter can make you look more attractive to potential employers.

However, Susan Adams of Forbes.com warns that a good cover letter might matter less in a large company. So don’t fret too much over it.

Here are some starting tips for getting started on your professional love letter:

Mention a mutual acquaintance or how you found out about the job: Whats the first thing you do when you have a crush on someone? Get to know their friends.

It’s sort of the same way with cover letters. If you know someone who works or has worked for the company, they probably can give you a better view of what the position entails.  Such as “John Doe recommended that I get in touch with you regarding the widget maker position.”

And people love playing matchmaker.

– Do your homework: If the potential love of your life loves Roses you probably shouldn’t get her Daffodils, right?

Make sure you know what this company is looking for and how you give that to them.

 Avoid cliches: Roses are red, violets are blue… We’ve all heard that before. Avoid overused phrases like “team player” and “Go-to person.” Careerbuilder.com has a nice list of words.

Avoid superlatives: These may have worked when you were 16, but companies won’t buy that “you’ll be the greatest boyfriend (err… public relations manger) in the world”

Use concrete examples from your experience that will show how you can help the company.

For example, the position announcement might mention that a company is looking, “Very strong organizational and project management skills, including being detail-focused, managing toward aggressive timelines and targets, and remaining calm under pressure.”

Your cover letter you could say something like, “I successfully managed multiple Public Relations projects for XYZ company. These projects involved planning and budget work with high profile clients like ACME, Quick-E-Mart, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe.  Every project was completed on-time and on-budget.”

Don’t copy my words exactly, but make sure you answer requirements or suggestions with specific examples. As a writing professor of mine likes to say, “Show, don’t tell.”

Those are just starting  points. Check out Com Career Services’ website for some cover letter examples.

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