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Thread: Cover letter tips

  1. #1
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Cover letter tips

    While searching through countless job announcements, I find that despite my own excitement and ambition for planning the posts describing these positions are pretty dull and straightforward. Normally I would think that a great way to set oneself apart is by writing an interesting cover letter. However, all of the interviews and jobs I have landed thus far resulted from the more straightforward approach.

    It would be nice to think that an HR person could get legitimately excited about a really creative cover letter, but any attempt I have made towards expressing my passion or excitement (or any type of emotion) always seems to fall short of a letter that just sticks to the requirements listed in the posting.

    Thoughts??

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I created my own cover letter "template" of sorts several years ago and it serves me fine. I'm not going to type it out in detail (that's for you to figure out since I still use it).

    #1. Be direct and to the point. Don't have long windy paragraphs. Bullet points get the point across.
    #2. Introduce yourself, say you are applying for X job advertised in Y
    #3. Briefly list how you meet the job requirements.
    #4. Wrap up with a concluding paragraph.

    Step #3 requires the most work. It's not enough to say "I do GIS" or "I have an MUP." This is the meat and potatoes of your application packet. Show you have done your homework on the job: Don't stray from the job description either. Don't offer to bring more to the table than they are asking because it could backfire: you either come across as desparate or unable to follow directions. Again, do #3 in simple bullet statements, preferably one sentence or less.

    For me, the cover letter requires the most work, even moreso than the resume or portfolio (optional). The components of the resume and portfolio are interchangeable (especially when you have a full list of projects) because you can add and subtract bullet points, sentences, to tailor the job description. The cover letter is one-of-a-kind. Yes, it is tailored but is NOT interchangeable with any other cover letter (save for basic formatting and introductory/concluding paragraphs).

    Finally, never toss out ANY job application you have worked on. Catalog a digital copy of every letter, e-mail correspondance, cover letter, resume, portfolio, and job application you have ever worked on. I have a digital copy of everything I mentioned, both complete and incomplete, going back 8 years (including separate digital portfolios for each and every job application) and I know exactly where to look if I want something worded a particular way or I need a cut sheet on a specific project (consultants should know EXACTLY what I am talking about). It's not as time consuming as you think but requires superb organization skills
    Last edited by nrschmid; 30 Dec 2010 at 10:59 PM.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Thanks, that's really good advice on saving materials. I know I wrote a pretty effective letter for the position I have now, but forgot to save it! I typically try following a similar set of rules, most importantly being concise.

    The portfolio is a whole different issue. I have been gradually updating my portfolio with new projects and have significantly enhanced its appearance with Photoshop and InDesign. It's tough though, trying to decide what material to include and what to omit, especially when all I have to work with is undergraduate projects and internships.

    Good advice though, and organizational skills are certainly an area which I can improve.

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