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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cover Letter Checklist

Cover Letter Checklist

Many job seekers struggle with their cover letters, but writing a good cover letter is a skill that can be learned and perfected. The time and effort will pay off, because a well-written cover letter can increase your odds of getting an interview.

If you’re wondering whether your cover letter is the best it can be, make sure you can answer “yes” to the questions on this checklist:


• Does your cover letter have a strong opening paragraph, communicating your job target and key strengths within the first few lines of text?

Grab the reader's attention by highlighting accomplishments, your passion for contributing to the employer's mission and your strongest related skills. To get started, ask yourself; "What core competencies would enable you to excel in the position you're targeting?” "How would the employer benefit from hiring you?"

• Does your cover letter conform to a standard business letter format?

• Is your cover letter addressed to a specific individual, if the name is available?

The Body

• Does the body of your cover letter express how you would benefit the employer if you were hired?

• Do you avoid starting every sentence with “I” or “my” so you can focus more on the employer’s requirements and not your own?

• Do you demonstrate your expertise by using industry-specific language?

• Do you include examples of your accomplishments so employers can see you have a proven track record?

Dig Deep for Resume Accomplishments

Many of us underestimate our achievements. We're often told not to boast, that modesty is the best policy. We show up to do our jobs every day and sometimes do great things -- isn't that enough?

Well, not if you want your resume to get noticed. Employers look for achievers, candidates who go above and beyond their job duties. Your resume allows you to describe your best accomplishments so employers want to take a chance on you.

If you think you have no career accomplishments, think again. Everybody has them; it's just a matter of digging down and pinpointing what they are.
What Is an Accomplishment?

On your resume, an accomplishment is an example of how you contributed to your employer, or it's an achievement that reflects the kind of worker you are. The most convincing accomplishments are measurable.

• Is the content engaging and relevant to hiring managers’ needs?

Customize Your Cover Letter to the Ad

Found the perfect job through an ad? Before you whisk off your resume and cover letter, study the ad and determine how your qualifications match the employer's requirements. Armed with this information, you can craft a cover letter positioning yourself as the ideal candidate.

• Is the cover letter succinct, containing just enough information to entice the reader to review your resume?

• Did you include all information that was requested, such as a job reference number, employment availability date and salary requirements?

Take Charge of Salary Questions

Once a prospective employer starts talking money -- as in how much you currently earn -- it's hard not to panic. And while it may seem like the only option is to simply answer the question, this is the time to choose your words carefully. In fact, how you respond to those initial salary questions plays a crucial role in determining whether your final pay package is excellent or just enough.

Employers use salary information to decide how much they need to offer to get you to consider the job. By providing salary information to a potential employer, you limit your ability to negotiate a compensation package that reflects your true market value. If you are currently underpaid, providing that information will ensure that you remain so.

The best way to deal with the salary issue is to avoid it. However, you need to do that tactfully and in a way that will not upset your prospective employer. At the same time, if you handle it correctly, an employer trying to recruit you will not want to press the issue for fear of angering you.

If you can delay discussions about salary, or keep them vague, until an employer wants to hire you, you can often get an offer without providing detailed salary information at all. If hiring managers do not have that information, they will be forced to base their offer on your market value rather than your current salary.

• Is the content unique? Did you avoid copying text from your resume verbatim?

• Does your cover letter sound genuine? Does it reflect your personality and make you seem likeable and approachable?

• Did you proofread your cover letter to ensure that it’s free of spelling, grammar, syntax and formatting errors?

• Does the writing style and design coordinate with the resume, such as by using the same font and layout style?

Closing Paragraph

• Did you provide an easy way for employers to contact you, such as a direct phone line and email address?

• Does your cover letter end with a call to action, confidently requesting an interview?

• Did you remember to sign your letter if you’re mailing a hard copy?

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