Craft a Professional Cover Letter and Get Noticed!

“I am writing in response to your ad for a Vice President of Finance.”

“In response to your recent online ad for a Treasurer, please find my resume.”

“I am looking for an opportunity with your company as a Financial Analyst.”

“My enclosed resume indicates that my background as a Controller matches your ad requirements.”

What do all of the above opening statements on a cover letter have in common? They’re typical of what most job seekers write and do not persuade the hiring manager or human resources professional to call you.

According to an employer survey conducted by an international association for professionals in the careers industry (Career Masters Institute), an overwhelming majority consider the cover letter very important and expect to see one included with resumes. They place great stock on letters as a reflection of your writing style, communications skills, personal qualities and ability to meet their needs. Yet, most job seekers will begin their cover letters with lackluster opening lines that do anything but capture the employer’s attention.

How do you entice decision makers or recruiters to continue reading your letter?

Just like a product or service, your cover letter needs to demonstrate how you are the answer to an employer’s problem. To create powerful covers letter that position you as the solution to the problem, begin with a two-step process.

First, analyze the position’s requirements and identify the important finance skills as well as other qualifications the employer or recruiter is seeking.

Next, specifically address all the requirements to illustrate how you will meet the employer’s needs as the head or contributing member of the finance or treasury organization.

Most cover letters miss the mark because the job seeker focuses on general facts—that could apply to anyone with a similar background in finance, accounting or treasury—rather than zeroing in the employer’s needs. They fail to demonstrate how the organization can benefit from that background.

To develop a cover letter that grabs attention and targets an employer’s needs, ask yourself:

What finance and other expertise do I offer that is key to this position and the employer?
What are my relevant projects or success stories that I can present in my finance career?
What is special about me that differentiates my qualifications from other finance professionals?
Such questions will help you focus your cover letter and answer the questions that every employer will want to know about you: “What can you do for me? Why should I interview you?

Start by identifying your skills, abilities and experience. For example:

18 years of experience in corporate finance and treasury management, both domestic and international operations.
Extensive knowledge of accounting or treasury systems.
Skills in financial analysis and reporting, banking relations, budgeting, etc.
Now describe the benefits you can offer an employer based on your skills, abilities and experience. For instance:

My experience in corporate finance and treasury operations is valuable because I can build a financial infrastructure or lead an effective treasury organization and staff the department with skilled people.

My extensive knowledge of accounting and treasury systems is important because I can spearhead the implementation of these systems to save company money and improve accuracy.”

My skills in financial analysis and reporting are critical because I can provide management with accurate, on-time information to make business decisions.

Next, you will want to identify and jot down several specific examples of how you applied your skills and knowledge to benefit your recent or prior organizations. For instance:

When I joined company X, it lacked a solid financial infrastructure and had an antiquated an accounting system. Financial reports were not produced on a timely basis. I established the financial infrastructure, hired the right talent, improved data integrity and provided on-time reporting in just a few months.

Our company acquired another organization, and I provided the leadership to seamlessly integrate the new acquisition’s treasury department within our company. This included system design and implementation, re-engineering, human resources and process integration. In this effort, I streamlined staff and saved our company $250K in annual in bank fees.

My responsibility is to review and analyze monthly statements to ensure that accurate charges are applied to our customers for cash management services. I created a spreadsheet to effectively manage the cash management income. As a result, I reduced redundancy in merchant service chargebacks, which saved time while increasing operational efficiency.

Then choose three of your best examples that relate to your target employer’s need—without duplicating those listed on your resume—and craft results-oriented statements that illustrate your success stories and promise a benefit.

Close your letters with an expression of interest (or a statement about your knowledge of the company and why you want to join it), a reiteration of the valuable contributions you can make and a call to action. An example would be: “I am excited about this opportunity as it matches your need for a senior-level manager to provide strategic planning and leadership to the finance organization and my track record of success in this area. I would be pleased to discuss my expertise first hand. Or, you can choose to end your letter with a promise to contact the company. However, if you so, make sure you plan to follow through.

If you apply the structure outlined in this article for each letter, you will create impact letters that resonate with employers, showcase your value offered and differentiate you from the competition.

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7 Steps To Writing A Cover Letter That Will Actually Get You An Interview

When it comes to the application process, you should know by now that everything you do matters. There’s so much attention given to resumes that we often forget how important a cover letter can be for our job prospects.

“The cover letter is an opportunity for you to tell the recruiters why you’re the perfect person for the job,” Peggy Padalino, vice president at JobFox, told me. “It’s also the place for you to show them you have good communication skills.”

You want to be able to craft a creative, easy-to-read cover letter, but trying to make yourself stand apart can sometimes go seriously wrong. I spoke to Padalino for tips on how to write a cover letter that will get you noticed and into the interview.

  1. Address the cover letter directly to the hiring manager or recruiter. If this person’s name isn’t in the job listing, take the extra effort to call or email the company and find out.
  2. Don’t reiterate your resume. The purpose of having a cover letter is to zero in on why you should be the one considered for the position. Otherwise, there’s no point in having one.
  3. It’s a professional document, so don’t go too over-the-top. Yes, trying to figure out ways to be creative may be difficult, but don’t go overboard out of desperation. And especially don’t say anything like this summer analyst did in his cover letter, which made him a laughing stock on Wall Street:

“I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. I have always felt that my time should be spent wisely, so I continuously challenge myself … I decided to redouble my effort by placing out of two classes, taking two honors classes, and holding two part-time jobs. That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups.”

  1. Make sure the reader knows you’ve done your research. Convey that you understand the company and its goals, and explain how you’d help it reach those goals.
  2. Always close your cover letter with an action statement. Tell the reader what you’re planning on doing next — for example, calling in a week or two to follow up.
  3. Keep your letter no longer than one page. Your cover letter is an introduction to yourself. It’s supposed to show that you have strong communication skills. Be brief and concise.
  4. Show the recruiter that you’d be a good match based on your skills. This is a trick Padalino highly recommends: Make two columns in the cover letter. On one side, list the top five requirements that the company wants, and on the other, list how you’d meet each requirement.
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Seven Keys to a Killer Cover Letter

Most job seekers understand the value and importance of a well-organized resume but spend far less energy on crafting a strong cover letter. What they fail to realize is that their resume and cover letter go hand-in-hand.

Employers are very busy and receive hundreds of resumes leaving little time for individual review. Submitting a thoughtful and well-written cover letter can help you outshine your competition and get you one step closer to an interview. Don’t let the energy you’ve spent on developing the perfect resume go to waste by failing to deliver an effective cover letter.

Here we offer some tips to help you craft the perfect cover letter that will get you noticed:

Cover Letter Key 1. Understand what the Cover Letter Must Achieve
A cover letter is basically a sales letter. You are trying to motivate a specific action – an invitation for an interview. In addition to reinforcing the key skills and experience you reference in your resume, a cover letter provides you with the opportunity to:

demonstrate your desire to work for the employer
identify specific ways your expertise can benefit the organization
differentiate yourself from other job seekers
demonstrate your individual personality
explain anomalies that may stand out in a resume such as gaps in employment
arouse interest that will help you get that interview.
Cover Letter Key 2. Know Your Stuff
Avoid using generic or mass produced cover letters. Each cover letter should be customized for each individual employer and include a statement about why you are attracted to the position and company.

Before you begin writing your cover letter, learn as much as you can about the potential employer. The more you know about an organization, the better you can tailor your cover letter to the firm’s needs. Visit the firm’s website and scan industry publications so you are up to speed on recent news about the company.

Remember, you want to express what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you. A cover letter must highlight aspects of your experience that are most useful to the potential employer, and you can earn points for knowing what those aspects are.

Cover Letter Key 3. Make it Personal
Often times a job listing does not include the name of the hiring manager. Never begin a cover letter with “to whom it may concern” or “Dear hiring Manager.” A generic salutation often signals to potential employers that you lack the initiative to locate the appropriate contact.

Instead, call the company directly and explain the position you are applying for to see if you can fill in the blank or take time to research on the internet or in appropriate business periodicals to get the name and title of the hiring official.

Cover Letter Key 4. Be Strong, Confident and Professional
A good cover letter begins with a powerful, clearly written opening paragraph. Your goal is to briefly describe how you heard about the position and why you’re interested in it. If you’re replying to an advertisement mentioning a code or job number, refer to this in your cover letter as well as any information specifically requested in the ad that may not be addressed in your resume such as an availability date or a writing sample.

Your tone should be confident without being arrogant. Avoid attempts to be “cute” or “catchy” in your opening. Gimmicky attempts to gain attention can appear insincere. It is best to keep your letter polished and professional as well as interesting and visually appealing. Mention only positive things and be formal, yet friendly and open.

Cover Letter Key 5. Highlight what is Most Relevant
A cover letter should be brief and to the point. It should be no longer than one page – perhaps 3 or 4 paragraphs – and should include your signature. Recruiters are pressed for time and often only have time to skim through applications. Use statistics, highlighted statements, or bullets to make sure that vital information can be easily spotted.

Make sure that the messaging in your letter is consistent with the information included in your resume. Your cover letter should not be a laundry list of items from your resume. Instead, highlight skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job opening and provide concrete examples of the skills, training, and/or experiences that are the basis for your confidence.

Cover Letter Key 6. Check Grammar and Spelling
The smallest grammatical error on your part can call your professionalism and attention to detail into question thereby discouraging a hiring manager from contacting you for an interview. Always spell-check your document and ask friends and family members to proof read your letter before sending it to any potential employer.

Cover Letter Key 7. Follow Up
In addition to expressing gratitude for the hiring manager’s time and interest, close your letter by outlining your next steps. Be proactive by stating when you will contact him or her to follow up. And don’t forget to include a phone number or e-mail address where you can be reached in case the firm wants to get in touch with you first.

Be sure to follow up with the employer via phone or email in 2-3 weeks if you have not heard from them. In your follow-up email, reiterate your interest in the position, ask about the status of your application and ask if they need any further information from you.

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Writing a Cover Letter That Gets You Noticed

A good resume is definitely important when applying for a job; whether or not you are called in for interview will depend on much of the information that is included in your resume and a badly presented one will often go to the bottom of the pile. However, a good cover letter can make a good resume stand out even more than it otherwise would. A well-worded and presented cover letter will prove to your employer that you have the professional skills to do the job in question. Resumes can be virtually lifted from the Internet these days, and there are companies that help job seekers put together a resume, and employers are very aware of this. However, it is more difficult to ‘fake’ a cover letter, so your employer will take note of the language you use and your presentation skills.

As good as any resume can possibly be, it can become even better with a well written cover letter. You absolutely “never” mail a resume without a cover letter. Why? Because it can say so much more than your resume is supposed to. It can explain what your intentions are with the resume you’re presenting, such as your plans for changing careers or industries. It can also reemphasize the strengths and competencies that you are offering a potential employer. It’s an important tool that you must use in the pursuit of employment.

A resume is often little more than a list of work experience and qualifications – obviously necessary for the job, but sometimes a little dry, particularly if you have a lot of experience. In your cover letter, you can emphasise what you think are the main reasons that you are qualified for the job in question. You can also expand a little in the letter, explaining that this is why you are a great candidate. A thorough employer should be able to see this from your resume anyway, but a little extra stress is unlikely to do you any harm and should make you more memorable.

The key to writing a great cover letter is to start with a draft, making sure all important issues concerning your experience, skills and abilities are included. Work with the draft until you get all the critical information addressed in a succinct manner. Remember, if the letter is too wordy, there’s a good chance it won’t be read. Good writing skills are important. Typically, you will be able to write your own cover letter, but if you feel you need assistance, seek it out. There is nothing wrong with getting help from someone else or using a resume writing service, if necessary. It is just that important! The letter has to be developed and written properly.

The good thing about a cover letter is that you only need one good one. That’s right, only one good one. Once you have the body of the letter written (the part that showcases your experience, skills and competencies), you just simply adapt that same letter over and over again to the particular employer by changing the inside address, salutation, etc. It might be necessary to make other slight adjustments if you are attempting to make some major change in your career outside of your normal profession or industry.

If a part of your job search includes direct mail, always indicate in the last line of your letter that you will be following up with a phone call at some point. Make that phone call. Otherwise, don’t waste your time. Direct mail without a phone call is a complete waste of time and postage.
Always try to address your letter to a person. You want to avoid, if at all possible, a general salutation such as “Dear Hiring Manager”. However, in the absence of a name, use “Hiring Manager” as opposed to “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May concern”.
If you don’t know the appropriate manager’s name, do a little leg work and find out. You can call the company’s Human Resources Department and get the name. Be sure and ask for the correct spelling. You have a much better chance of getting your letter and resume in front of a hiring manager if you address it directly to that person.
It is important to first read the job description provided by the employer or agency. This contains the key to writing your cover letter. The job tasks or list of duties are an expansion of the selection criteria, stating specific duties which may be required to be performed in this particular job. Could you do this work? Would you enjoy it? Have you performed these duties before? If you decide that this job is for you, then you can begin writing your application.
You need to address each selection criteria in detail. Be thorough in covering every point possible. The SC’s will often state “A Demonstrated ability in.” This means the employer is looking for an example or detailed description of how you have performed this task a direct or at least parallel account from your own experience. Describe the situation, and how you effectively handled it.
If you want your resume to shine, a well written cover letter is a must! Obviously, if you don’t have the skills that the employer is looking for, a cover letter, no matter how good, is not going to make any difference. However, with some careful forethought, if you do have the right qualifications, your cover letter can most certainly make you stand out in the mind of the employer. So, bottom line, never underestimate the importance of a good cover letter with your resume!

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