Assertive Resume Cover Letter

Four paragraphs to get you noticed

You want your resume cover letter to stand out from all the others, right? Keep it simple and follow this powerful four paragraph framework for maximum effect.

Don't sell yourself short when writing your covering letter. Here's your chance to be assertive and really direct attention to what you can add to the business.

Resume Cover Letter - Basic Layout

A cover letter should follow the block design layout of a business letter and be written using language and style that's best suited to your potential employer.

That's why it's so important that you do your homework and find out as much as you can about the company. Your style can be much more creative if you're applying for an art design position in an ad agency than you could applying for a position as an accountant, for example.

The resume cover letter must contain your address and contact details at the top of the page, the date, and information regarding the person to whom you're addressing the letter.

Start the letter by greeting a specific person. Do your homework, find out who will receive your application, and then greet them (Dear Ms Pikwan, for example). Follow this with a reference or subject line where you might quote the job reference number.

Read more basic layout information and why you should pay attention to the way you end your covering letter.

Time to be assertive!

The basic outline and guide for the four paragraph cover letter structure will ensure that your letter addresses what counts. But if you really want attention I suggest you consider assertively delivering what your new employer wants to hear.

Follow the four paragraph framework and apply these ideas to your covering letter:

  • Opening Paragraph
    The opening paragraph is the most important of the entire letter. You've got about 30 seconds to capture the readers attention and give them the urge to read further.

    Traditionally the opening paragraph of a resume cover letter is used to identify yourself, the position you are applying for, and how you found out about the vacancy. It used to read something like this: I am extremely interested to apply for the position of Marketing Manager as advertised in the Daily Trumpet on 25 June 2009.

    Now there's really nothing wrong with this, except that it's much the same as everyone else will be writing, and frankly, it's a bit boring. It also says nothing about what you can do and how you can make the business better.

    May I make a suggestion? Try something different. Be a little more assertive. Capture the readers attention by showing that you understand what they need and have the desire to add your unique strength to the business.

    I have consistently exceeded sales targets and increased the number of new accounts in every position I have held, directly affecting the income and profits of my employers. I can bring this same success to the Marketing Manager position you posted in the Daily Trumpet on 25 June 2009.

    Wow! That gets attention. What will change for you if your resume cover letter started in this way? You can be more specific for even more impact:

    I have consistently exceeded sales targets by 50 percent and doubled the number of new accounts in every position I have held, adding 20 percent to the bottom line profits of my employers. I can bring this same success to the Marketing Manager position you posted in the Daily Trumpet on 25 June 2009.

Let's take a brief look at what's happening here. First, the reader is awake and interested because you have recognised what is important to the employer. 

Secondly, you've set yourself up as the perfect candidate by recognising the qualities that are important to the position and telling them that you have these in abundance. 

Third, you've shown how this can benefit the employer, rather than how it will benefit you (through more experience, for example) which is a mistake many of us make in a resume cover letter.

Briefly then, how do you create an opening paragraph? Answer the question "How can I show that I am the best person for the job?". What are two or three qualities, skills or achievements that would make the best person stand out for this particular job? 

Ask yourself what qualities the employer is ideally looking for? What do they need to achieve by placing someone in this position? Convey the answers to these questions in the very first paragraph of your resume cover letter.

  • Paragraph 2
    In the second paragraph you can give details of your academic and/or professional qualifications, as well as personal qualities that make you an ideal candidate.

    Mention how you can provide the benefits you wrote about in the first paragraph and refer to relevant aspects of your resume.

    If this is a career change cover letter make sure that you focus on the skills that you are able to bring from your past work experience.

  • Paragraph 3
    Use the third paragraph to demonstrate your knowledge of the company, what their needs are and how you are the solution to these needs. 

    You can expand a little more on your qualifications and experience, at the same time showing knowledge of the company. This means you need to do your research. 

    You can only really know what the organisation's needs are if you have knowledge of the company.

  • Closing Paragraph
    Traditionally the closing paragraph of a resume cover letter is used to thank the reader for considering you, tell them your resume is attached, that you're available for an interview, that you're interested in the position, and end.

    If I may make one more suggestion, please? Try to be a little more proactive.

    You see, the point of sending a resume cover letter and your resume is that you are applying for a job. You know this, and the reader knows this. So saying thanks for considering me, I'm available for an interview, and I'm very interested in the position is a bit flat. Of course you're interested and available!

    So, although it might feel different to the way you normally do things, be a little more assertive in your closing paragraph. Ask for an interview, say why you're perfect for the job, and tell them you'll follow up.Your closing paragraph might read: 

    I would like to contribute to the success of (company name), and I am certain that we should meet. I will contact your office next week to schedule an appointment.

    Pow! The reader is thinking 'I want to know more about this person' and they turn to your resume.

Follow these four steps to creating a resume that really stands out to get you the interview you deserve. Your resume adds detail and supports what you've said in your resume cover letter.

As I said, make sure your phone is on!

Oh, and if you say you'll follow up make sure you do this. Following up on a job application dramatically increases the likelihood of being asked to an interview.

Now you have the basic layout of the resume cover letter follow the seven powerful cover letter tips and then find out what you need to know about sending cover letters by email.

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How to write a powerful resume cover letter.

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