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If you think the cover letter died a slow death when we moved to online applications, think again. While they may not be the trendiest, cover letters are not rolling over dead just yet.

It is true that some companies are thought to ignore cover letters and focus solely on the resume and any specific application form required. Others, however, still demand the cover letter as part of the screening process.

If you are in any doubt, then err on the side of caution and use a well-crafted cover letter to help you get your foot in the door. This is especially true if you are sending in a speculative application: one submitted to an employer before a job is even advertised.

Here’s how:

1. Introduce yourself

The cover provides a chance for an applicant to tell the employer about themselves in a more personable way. While a resume can follow a standard template and is often fairly formal in tone, the cover letter should be a moment to let your personality shine through.

Open your letter with an introduction, including confirmation of which role you are applying for and where you saw it advertised. This forms the opening paragraph of your letter. If it is at all possible (with a little detective work, if needed), get a personal name to address the letter. You might need to call up the company or use LinkedIn to find the recruiting manager’s details.

You might end up with something like this:

Dear Ms Smith,

I was thrilled to find the role of Customer Success Manager advertised on your website. I have worked in retail positions all my life, and love nothing better than turning a disappointed customer into a delighted one. My passion for great service really is what gets me fired up for work every morning, and I am excited at the opportunity to join your growing team. Please find my full resume attached.

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2. Match the role requirements

So you’ve acquainted yourself with the recruiting manager. Now, you need to show how you meet the requirements of the role, as set out in the job advert.

Start with the essential and desirable skills as listed, and brainstorm ways your experience fits. If there are many skills listed, then bullet point this section for clarity. When you list these skills and experiences, aim to show measurable successes whenever possible. Adding in metrics gives the reader a benchmark that they can use to measure your abilities.

Think about things like the cash value or percentage increase in turnover you achieved. Maybe calculate the reduction in weeks of customer waiting times due to your efforts. All of these give the reviewer a solid handle on the impact of your previous work.

Your next paragraph might look a bit like this:

From my experience working as a Customer Service Manager with Wal-Mart, I have extensive experience of CRM systems. I have developed a comfortable proficiency in offering tailored service solutions in person, on the phone, and online. During my tenure at Wal-Mart, I improved resolution times by 30%, despite my budget remaining static. I took proactive steps to interpret complaint trends and, in turn, reduced customer complaints. This resulted in customer loyalty in my store rising year-on-year by 15%, with corresponding sales up $1M a month in my part of the business.

3. Sell your unique qualities

For extra points, do a bit of research into the business. Find out about the company culture and the challenges or opportunities that may be on their horizon. You’re looking to explain how your personal mix of skills and experiences — which are unique to you — can help the business address any issues (or capitalize on opportunities) that are coming their way.

Maybe your research will turn up a conference where a leader from the business described their current and future plans. Investor reports might also give good insight if the business is floated.

Be sure to follow the company’s primary social media accounts (such as their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), as well as any key members’ accounts that you may come across. Often times, these can provide informational tidbits about the company’s struggles, achievements, and vision.

If these are not available, turn to industry press to get a feel for what is playing on the mind of the ‘insiders.’ Then, think about ways you can help meet these needs head-on.

It might go something like this:

I was interested to learn that your current service focus lies in simplifying the route for customers to raise issues, and specifically developing your social media presence to resolve complaints more quickly. During a project role with Wal-Mart, I was able to develop service training for our social media response team and led this group in creating and rolling out ideal practices for dealing with high profile social media complaints. This experience left me convinced that the future of customer service lies in part in spotting and resolving online complaints quickly, and turning the tide to a good news story which can still go viral. I would be delighted to share my experiences with your team.

4. Thank and follow up

Finally, close your note with a thank you, and offer to follow up if you think it is necessary. If the job listing specifies that candidates will be notified by a certain date, a follow up might not be needed.

Hopefully your letter has built some rapport with the reader already, so end in a positive and warm note.

This might be as simple as saying, “I look forward to hearing from you soon,” or a more proactive ending like this:

Thank you for your time. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the role in more detail, and learn more about your current customer service journey. If I can expand on my experience at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Before you hit send, read the note over. If you can, get someone else to review it, too, to check for spelling and grammar errors. Make sure that it covers all of the relevant points and includes your potential contributions to the team.

Then, you’re good to go. Get the application filed and give yourself a pat on the back!

What are your tips for a great cover letter? Or, if you are a recruiter, do you still rely on them?

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