What Should a Cover Letter Accomplish?

by Oubria Tronshaw

For a cover letter to accomplish its ultimate goal -- getting you the job -- the letter should be well written and carefully proofread. Intentional or not, typos, misspellings and poor phrasing can leave a negative impression of your work ethic and professional capability. Always address your cover letter to the specific person who'll be considering applicants for the position, and spell his name correctly.

Introduce Yourself

A cover letter should give potential employers an inkling of an applicant’s personality, since the document plays a significant role in determining whether an interviewer will want to meet the applicant face to face. The letter should be well-written and professional, but it should also shine with charisma, competence and intelligence to pique the potential employer’s interest. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Rather than saying, “I am writing to apply for the customer service position,” try, “I read the qualifications for the customer service position and I am positive I’m the right person for the job.”

Qualifications and Background

A cover letter should briefly detail an applicant’s level of skill and expertise, and touch on relevant training and employment experiences. After reading your cover letter, a potential employer should know what you can do, how long you’ve been doing it, and have specific details regarding your career success. Do not generalize your skills or experience; refrain from vague descriptions such as, “Top salesperson in my district,” or “Possess excellent customer service skills.” Write instead, “Increased district sales by 43 percent,” or “Increased customer retention rate by 30% through listening, mediation and conflict resolution.” Your cover letter is the sales pitch and you’re the product -- be as detailed as possible while discussing your marketable features.

Meet Potential Employer's Needs

A cover letter should also explain to a potential employer how you plan on meeting the company’s specific needs. Use language from the job advertisement in your cover letter, for example, “I am a motivated self-starter who needs minimal supervision,” or “I am a charismatic people person who will bring a fun atmosphere to the sales floor. If you’re applying for a position that wasn’t advertised, research the company’s mission statement and website to get a feel for what type of employee they might be looking for.

Set Up an Interview

If things go well, your cover letter should get you to the next step in the hiring process. Rather than close with a passive, “I look forward to hearing from you,” take matters into your own hands with, “I’ll call you Friday to set up an interview next week. I’m excited to speak with you about the position in-depth.”

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

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