Monday, November 22, 2010

New Grads Make Sure You're "Covered"

Three Rules for Writing an Effective Cover Letter

By Frances Cole Jones for

At the moment, college graduates nationwide are sending cover letters far and wide—many of which came to me for pre-sending inspection. Based on what I saw, I put together the following list of three things every college graduate should keep in mind:

1. HR Directors aren’t there to make your dreams come true

Don’t begin by saying what you hope to gain by joining their firm, or that you’re sure a career in X will fulfill your goals/meet your expectations. Instead, state in your opening paragraph how and why your skills/experience/education is going to make their life better. For example, “Your job description states you are looking for someone who can do X. Not only can I do X, but I can do Y.”

2. Have the values/skills you claim you have

Don’t say you’re a go-getter and then never follow up after you send the cover letter. Don’t say you have a strong network in banking if you’ve only held internship positions, and don’t claim you have tech skills that can be checked by someone saying, “Let’s have you take a crack at that right now.” Paragraph two should give specifics about the actual values/skills you embody/possess.

3. Close with Your Hard/Soft Skill Mix

Companies frequently have several choices about who CAN do the job (the hard skills) so their choice becomes: which candidate will be a good team member/colleague? (the soft skills) Consequently, I recommend closing your letter with the phrase, “Given my work experience, my education, and my life experience, I believe I have the combination of hard and soft skills required to add immediate value to your firm.”

Since HR Directors know most students get help with their resumes, cover letters are looked at even more closely. Following these three rules ensures yours will stand up to scrutiny.

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