If you're looking for a job after graduation this year, there's optimism on the horizon: Employers surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers recently said they planned to hire 9.5 percent more graduates in 2012 than they did in 2011.
When applying for a job, the two staples that accompany your interest in the position are a cover letter and a resume. If you've heard cover letters are a pointless part of the interviewing process, don't believe it. That would be akin to saying math skills aren't necessary to obtain an engineering degree online.
Picture this scenario: A potential employer weeds through 100 cover letters and has to pick out 10. Those are the folks who are brought in for an interview. What can you do to become a part of the top 10 percent?
Why, of course, make your cover letter simply irresistible (sorry, it's now stuck in your head for the next 10 minutes at minimum).
Here are eight ways to craft a stunning cover letter:
1. Grab the employer's attention - early.
Don't take a while to get to the point. Establish in your first two or three sentences why you would be an ideal fit for the position. The cover letter is the first impression. Make it count.
2. Be creative.
Try and come up with something clever to set yourself apart. Think of a particular experience at your previous job that relates to the desired position and also offers key reasons you could make a valuable addition to the staff.
3. Be specific.
This ties in to No. 2. It's great that you have drive and a diligent work ethic, but any Joe/Jane Smith could have that on their cover letter as well. Solution: Tell the employer briefly about your diligent work ethic with a specific example from your previous or current job. That will resonate quite a bit deeper.
4. Know someone in the company? Mention the individual.
This is the one time when it's not tragic to name-drop. If you know someone in the company in which you're interested, mention the name in your cover letter. Pretty please, however, contact said source before including his/her name. You want to double-check this individual still works there. You also want to notify the person ahead of time in the event the employer contacts your source to inquire about your fit with the company.
5. Keep your outline organized.
Need help with the outline of your cover letter? As a general reference, start with stating the position and where you saw the opening. As stated in No. 4, mention any contacts you know at the company. Next, list your qualifications and why you are an ideal fit. This is where you can be the most creative. Close with a request to come in for an interview and list your contact information. Always thank employers for their consideration.
6. Use paragraph form.
Don't double space the cover letter. It drags it out and makes it longer than necessary. Use the paragraph form that was utilized in the first couple paragraphs of this blog entry.
7. Stay away from "To whom it may concern," if possible.
When addressing your cover letter, try to include a name in the salutation. Not seeing a name on the job posting? Show the employer you're willing to do research (LinkedIn, company Website) and locate the contact online.
8. Keep your cover letter to a half page.
Potential employers want to read creative cover letters that capture their attention quickly. They don't want to read research papers.
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About the author: Eric Sorrentino joined Grantham University as Social Media Manager in October 2011. Prior to his current position, he blogged about the Big 12 Conference for KUsports.com and was a sports copy editor for the Lawrence Journal-World. Eric received his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas.