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How to Write a Killer Cover Letter

As a job seeker, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of a cover letter. If written strategically, a cover letter increases your chances for consideration, and provides an opportunity to highlight your individuality.

A cover letter is much more than just a letter stating, “I read the job announcement in Sunday’s classified, please accept this letter as an application of interest”. It is a statement that tells the reader what they can expect from you if hired.

The challenging part of writing a cover letter is determining what information to include. After all, all the juicy information was included in the resume. What could you possibly add to the cover letter that will add substance to your qualifications?

Keep in mind that the resume and cover letter have different purposes. A resume demonstrates that you can do the job, it highlights your past accomplishments, while a cover letter points out the extent to which you match the job requirements for a specific a company and how you will fit in.

A well-written cover letter gives you an advantage over your competition because it provides another opportunity to showcase your experience and qualifications.

Cover letter basics can be mastered by following the pointers below.

Sell! Sell! Sell!
A cover letter is more than just a business letter; it is a sales letter. Begin with a strong introduction, layout the benefits you offer, and establish credibility by showcasing your accomplishments.

Write as you speak.
The cover letter should have a professional conversational tone, but sound as though a real person wrote it. Many people fall in the trap of using big word to communicate their message. Instead, write in a straightforward manner that entices the reader to review the resume. The words you choose should demonstrate enthusiasm for the position, company and industry.

Write from the reader’s perspective.
Action words should not be reserved for the resume. Begin each sentence with a power word. Don’t use a passive voice. Avoid starting sentences with the word “I.” Like the resume, the cover letter’s focus is on the hiring company, and beginning too many sentences with “I” puts the spotlight too much on you. 

Don’t rehash your resume.
Be creative when presenting your qualifications and accomplishments. You don’t want to bore the reader by simply repeating the information you included in your resume. Find different ways to communicate the same message. The best way to do this is by selecting
three to five major selling points and highlighting them in the body of the cover letter. Doing so will entice the reader to do more than just glance at your resume.

Ask for an interview.
Be proactive. In the last paragraph tell the reader that you will be contacting him or her to setup a meeting time. After all, the purpose of applying for a job is to be invited in for an interview, so don’t be shy, go for it.

You should use every tool at your disposal to secure an interview. Targeted cover letters add to your portfolio of qualifications and deserve as much consideration as a resume.

Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. She is President of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writers’ Association. Visit her website at http://www.careerstrides.com/ or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" >This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Get In the Game With a Great Resume

During the job hunter's market of the 1990's, employers were settling for less than qualified candidates because the candidate pool was so small. Job hunters were able to name their price and employers were meeting their demands.

The job climate is much different today than it was a few years ago. Job hunters have forgotten how to present themselves to a prospective employer. Their job search skills are poor and they are struggling to find employment.

In today's job market, a resume which highlights accomplishments and skills is essential for career success. It is time to get back to the basics. Employers are no longer settling for the average job candidate. The ball is in their court now and they have the upper hand.

Your resume is your calling card. Therefore, it should stand out from the rest and go the extra mile in presenting you as the most qualified candidate.

An effective resume is:

- Your ticket to an interview
The resume serves as an introduction of your qualifications. Its sole purpose is to win an interview.

- The agenda setter for the interview
Interviewers will use your resume as a gauge for interview questions.

- A reminder
Once the interview is over, the hiring manager has their notes and your resume as a reminder of your qualifications. While you don't have control over what the interviewer decides to write in their notes, you do have control over what is written in your resume. For the most part, the resume may be your last word.

- A solid first impression
In most cases, the employer will only have your resume to evaluate your job performance. Your resume should position you as the best candidate for the job.

An ineffective resume is:

- A Personal Document
Your resume should stress what kind of work you are seeking, what you know, what you have demonstrated, and what immediate contribution you can contribute to the hiring organization. Your resume should not include your personal stats, such as height, weight, hair/eye color, etc. It should also not list your birth date, marital status or social security number.

-  Easy to write
If you have written your own resume or are attempting to write your own resume, you can attest to the fact that resumes are difficult to write. Recalling past achievements and presenting them in a compelling way can be tough. Also, if you aren't objective about your own achievements, this can skew how your career information is presented.

-  A one-size fits all marketing tool
In resume writing, there aren't any rules. I am sure you have read articles that your resume should only be one page, or that your resume should be in chronological format or it won't be read. The truth is that each job seeker has a different set of circumstances and ironclad rules do not exist in resume writing. It is important that you evaluate your situation and come to a conclusion that fits into your reality.

-  A magic pill
In order for your resume to be effective, you must know how to use it. Answering want ads or posting your resume on the Internet is not going to get you the results you desire. You have to be an active job searcher and use the resume as a catalyst for your job search, not as your only tool. Your resume must include the type of job you want, what you know, what you have done, and what you offer an employer.

Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. She is President of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writers' Association. Visit her website at http://www.careerstrides.com/ or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The "Interviewable" Resume

It is rumored that the only word William Shakespeare wrote on his resume was "Available." We'll probably never know if that is true. But it raises an interesting question. How much information is too much and how much is too little when dealing with resume copy?

The resume is a vital piece to any job search. As companies scramble to find the ideal candidate, they use the resume to screen candidates. Done right, a resume builds an instant connection with the reader and helps steer the course of the interview in your favor. If you submit a resume that piques the curiosity of the reader, he or she most likely will ask questions based on the information you provided on the resume as opposed to relying on a pre-packaged questionnaire. That's how you know you have an "interviewable" resume, when it assists in shaping the course of the interview.

The challenge is, How does one create an "interviewable" resume, one that isn't boring or sterile? How does one write a resume that motivates the reader to give you a call?

Write with the employer in mind

Cast aside the belief that the resume is about you because it isn't. Though the resume is your "story", the heart of it should focus on the needs of the employer. When developing your resume give thought to the person who will be reading it. What are his or her immediate concerns? How will you be able to solve that person's problems?

Though it may be difficult to pin down a company's immediate concerns before an interview, the reality is that organizations recruit candidates for one of the following reasons: they need to replace an unproductive employee, a peak performer was promoted or left, or a new position has been created. A recruiter usually searches for a candidate who will produce certain results, one that is a skilled communicator and has a strong work ethic. If you are able to target your resume toward these key areas, you will, without a doubt, tap into the organization�s concerns.

Choose your phrases carefully

Sentence starters and appropriate use of action words all determine whether the resume is "interviewable." Instead of using predictable phrases, think of ways to add punch to your resume. For example, instead of using increased sales by 250%, write delivered a 250% increase in sales; instead of using ability to effectively write demonstrated ability to effectively; and instead of using reduced costs,write slashed costs.

When your resume doesn't sound like all the others on the recruiter's desk, he or she will take notice. You will be remembered when your resume breaks the monotony of the recruiter's day. Guaranteed.

Have a consistent message

Don't try to become all things to all people. If you are a CEO, don't add a statement that indicates that you are willing to be a Business Manager. If you are a Sales Manager, don't indicate that you are willing to take on a position as a Customer Service Representative. Get the picture? Determine what you are selling (and looking for) before you put one word to paper.

Determine your major selling points

Though you may share the same job title with many other people, your accomplishments and how you carry out your responsibilities are what distinguishes you from all the other qualified candidates. Focus your resume on not only what you did but also how well you did it. By design, what makes you "interviewable" is how you market your strengths on paper.

Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. She is President of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writers' Association. Visit her website at http://www.careerstrides.com/ or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There's No Need to Pad Your Resume

It seems like a good idea, harmless in fact. Your friends assure you that everybody does it and that employers rarely check resume facts. Going on blind faith and convinced the truth hasn't been helpful so far, you seriously consider fabricating information on your resume. You adapt the school of thought that a little white lie never hurt anyone and lying on a resume is just that, a little white lie.

Cheating on a resume can be tempting, especially when one has been searching for a job for months or even years. However, we all know that fibbing is never a good idea, and the likelihood that you'll be caught is extremely high. Even if your "creativity" slips through the cracks, karma has a way of catching up with you. So either way, lying gets messy.

That said, many job seekers have major hiccups in their professional life, employment gaps, lack of education and/or experience and it is becoming increasingly difficult for most to write their own resumes without exaggerating or flat-out lying. Since resume fraud is on the rise, employers are taking much more care in verifying information, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to mislead them. The good news, however, is that lying isn't necessary if the resume is well-written and strategically organized.

The education and experience sections of a resume are the ones most job seekers are fixed on fabricating. They are under the impression that if they lack the educational requirements or the experience described in the job description they won't be considered a serious candidate. That, however, is a myth.

Education doesn't top an employer's list
Many people incorrectly believe hiring decisions are made based on the candidate's education, and they feel compelled to stretch the truth in order to compete with their degreed counterparts. The reality is that education, though important, isn't the driving force behind hiring decisions unless, of course, your profession requires a degree (e.g. doctors, lawyers, CPAs, etc.).

When a candidate lacks a college degree but has a solid work history, education quickly falls down the ladder of necessary requirements. Let's take a look at this point from an employer's perspective.

The situation: The job description reads, "Seeking an accounts payable specialist with comprehensive experience in processing expense reports, reconciling vendor accounts, and performing bank reconciliations. Successful candidate holds an associate's degree in accounting."

Candidate #1: Jose has worked in accounts payable for the last five years. During his career, he has set up new policies, cross-referenced purchase orders with invoices, and interacted with vendors to resolve invoice discrepancies. His experience comes from the school of hard knocks and he doesn't have a college education.

Candidate #2: Maria recently received a bachelor's degree in accounting. While earning her degree she worked as a front desk clerk for a Fortune 500 company where she was in charge of filing and answering a multi-line phone system.

Who would you rather hire, Jose or Maria? Chances are that you named Jose as the clear winner because his experience supercedes Maria's education. Jose will be able to jump into the position with little or no training because he has hands-on knowledge of best accounting practices. Maria, on the other hand, is green. The hiring organization would have to spend time, money, and resources to train her, which they most likely won't have an interest in doing.

Show 'em what you've got
Employers spend most of their time scrutinizing the experience section of the resume, and unfortunately, the homespun resume rarely tells the whole story. Most resume do-it-yourselfers fear their accomplishments won't fare well against the competition and they decide to embellish facts in an effort to attract an employer's attention.

Again, fabricating information isn't necessary. Most likely the experience you have garnered throughout your work history is impressive. The challenge, however, is expressing your accomplishments in a way that entices the hiring organization to give you a call.

When dealing with hiring organizations you have to connect all the dots. For each position that you are applying for, there is an average of 500 applicants so you have to make it very easy for the reader to distinguish between you and every other qualified candidate. The only way to achieve that is by writing strong resume copy.

As a job seeker you are intimately involved in your own search, so much so that it is hard to take a step back and write a resume that is marketable. You are probably your own worst critic. If you have attempted to write your own resume you know how difficult it is to write about yourself objectively.

To make the resume-writing process easier, answer the following:

1. What skill set do you bring to the table?
2. What are your competitive strengths?
3. For each position you held, list three to five achievements.
4. How is your company better off since you joined their team?
5. Have you been involved in designing and/or implementing new initiatives?

The point here is to start thinking about your career as a portrait of who you are professionally, and not just as a job. When you make that mind shift, it will be easier to put words to paper. Lying isn't a necessary evil. The trick to obtaining the job you desire is making the most of what you have to offer.

Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. She is President of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writers' Association. Visit her website at http://www.careerstrides.com/ or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Avoiding Mistakes and Gaffes In Your Resume

Having mistakes and gaffes in your job resume spell disaster for your job search. The last thing an employer needs is to look at a poorly written resume. The employer is looking at possibly dozens of resumes a day, and if yours is not up to par, don't expect to hear from him/her.

Make sure you proofread your resume for spelling errors. If you're not sure about the spelling of a particular word, make sure the spell check function is on while you are writing your resume.

One of the first things that an employer will look for are your qualifications for the job. Don't waste the employer's time by not listing your qualifications where he/she can see them. If the employer sees that you're qualified for the job, then they will continue to read your resume.

Don't turn in a resume that is poorly written, hard to read because it's printed on some dark colored resume paper, or just plain sloppy. The recruiter doesn't care how cool you are because you used a different color paper than everyone else. They're only interested in what's on the paper.

I know you want your resume to stand out from the others, but using standard white resume paper is your best option. Try to stand out from the others by listing your achievements and skills instead.

Don't put too much information in your resume. Keep it short and to the point. You don't have to put down every single job you had since high school. Remember, the whole point of the resume is to show the potential employer that you are qualified for the position.

Emphasize the skills and achievements that are related to the job you are applying for. When writing your past job descriptions, elaborate only on the duties of your job that help the potential employer recognize your qualifications for the position you are seeking.

Even after doing all of this, your job resume will still be compared to dozens of other resumes. There's not much you can do about that. But, with the tips listed above, you increase your chances of having your resume actually read and considered for a possible job interview.

About The Author
Michelle Roebuck provides job interview tips and resume writing advice on her website http://www.job-interview-and-resume-tips.com/.

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We recommend that you regularly search MarketingHire.com's summer internship job posts and set up a job agent to have the latest posts automatically delivered to your inbox -- so you're among the first potential candidates to see them. MarketingHire.com lets employers list interships free, and we get some extremely sought after employers posting interships with us. But just like applying for a full-time job, we still recommend networking your way into an internship. For example, if you see a job for XYZ company, check your network and see if you know anyone connected to somehow who works at that company. If you do, find out if he or she can make an introduction and recommendation for you to speak with -- and ideally meet with -- that person. If that's not possible or realistic, than do your best to submit your application via the standard process. 

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