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When Writing a Cover Letter, How Do You Bring Your KSAs to the Attention of the Screener?

by Jennifer Burton

When you write a cover letter for a job application, you want to make sure that the details of the letter grab the attention of the application screener. The cover letter should speak to the high points of your knowledge, skills and abilities -- your KSAs -- as they pertain to the job. The letter also should say why you are pursuing this position. The screener's job is to weed out applications that do not meet the job requirements, so your cover letter must speak to the screener and keep your application packet at the top of the candidate pool.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Knowledge, skills, and abilities are vital components in any job description. Application and resume screeners, as well as, recruiters and hiring managers, try to match up job's required knowledge, skills and abilities with the best candidates. These knowledge, skills, and abilities should be reflected on each job candidate's resume or application, as well as in the cover letter of the application packet.

The Purpose of the Cover Letter

The purpose of the cover letter is to grab the attention of the resume screener and to make the candidate stand out. The cover letter should highlight the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities listed in the job description. For instance, if the job flyer notes a typing speed of 50 words per minute, the cover letter should speak to the candidate's ability to type accurately at 50 words per minute or faster. It also should mention any additional computer or software skills. This will highlight the candidate's ability to succeed with minimal training, and to surpass the employer's expectations. The cover letter is your chance to put your best foot forward.

How to Highlight Strengths in KSAs

According to Seth Porges, a contributor for "Forbes" magazine, "At best, a cover letter can help a job-seeker stand out from the pack." Instead of just listing your KSAs, make a case for how they are going to benefit your potential employer. That makes your cover letter not just about you, but about your would-be company, too. Add a special interest in the field or a personal approach to the job or industry to improve your cover letter with a personal touch.

Cover Letters: Pieces of the Puzzle

The cover letter is a piece of the puzzle that is the larger application packet. Your packet may not be a stack of papers because employers in the 21st century often require electronically submitted applications, resumes, cover letters, and possibly, letters of recommendation, proof of education or trade certificates. The cover letter, therefore, is one piece of the entire puzzle, but it functions as the spokesperson for the application packet. It is the concise "elevator speech" version of the job applicant's knowledge, skills, and abilities. Making that connection in the cover letter, as well as addressing why you are interested in this position or industry, is how you write a successful cover letter.

About the Author

Jennifer Burton is a human resources professional based in California. She holds an M.A. in American studies from California State University, Fullerton.

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