There’s no getting around it: You need to include a targeted cover letter if you’re applying for a specific job (form letters won't cut it). As the name implies, a targeted cover letter speaks directly to the job you're interested in, using words and phrases that match the job description. Thus, no two targeted cover letters should ever be exactly the same.
It's a pain in the butt to tweak your letter for every new job application, but it's also one of the best ways to show you're willing to put in the extra effort to do it right.
You don't have to rewrite your entire cover letter every time; just rearrange and restructure it to fit the specific details of the job opportunity. And don't forget to change the title of the position, the name of the company, and the name and title of the contact person for each job!
So how do you actually write a targeted cover letter?
Take your cue from the job ad (and the company web site). See what keywords and descriptors they use, which qualifications they emphasize, and in which order they list their desired skills. Then mimic those in your letter.
For example, below is an actual job posting for a Personal Banking Representative. I highlighted (in bold type) the words or concepts I would include if I were writing a targeted cover letter for this position:
The Job Ad
Personal Banking Representative
- Provides world-class customer service which meets and exceeds the customer's expectations.
- Actively sells bank's products and services.
- Analyzes and determines the financial needs of each customer, matches this need to the appropriate product or service; grows profitable customer relationships based on customer satisfaction.
- Meets and exceeds personal sales goals and actively participates in all branch sales and marketing activities.
- Opens new accounts, processes loan applications, and
closes loans according to guidelines.
- Demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of all consumer product and services.
- Takes personal responsibility for developing and
maintaining knowledge required to fulfill job functions.
- Performs other duties as requested.
- May be asked to help out at a neighboring branch.
- May be asked to travel to meetings.
Here's a sample cover letter using those highlighted keywords and phrases to target this employer's specific needs:
The Targeted Cover Letter
Dear Ms. Banker:
The Personal Banking Representative position strikes me
as an outstanding opportunity to contribute my four years of banking and customer service experience to an organization that shares my commitment to relationship-building, professional development, and continuous growth.
As an Assistant Banking Representative at XYZ Bank, I have gained an in-depth understanding of how to sell the many products, services, and financing options available to branch banking customers, along with the associated regulations and guidelines. I take pride in providing service that matches the individual’s needs, helping ensure customer retention and satisfaction.
I am eager to build upon my sales and marketing skills to enhance your organization’s profitability. I have earned an Associate’s Degree in finance, and I make it a priority to pursue continued training and professional development, not only to fulfill job functions but to maintain and develop my knowledge of this industry.
I am confident that I can fulfill the role of Personal Banking Representative, excelling at both the official duties and those that arise unexpectedly, to become a valuable member of your team.
By using the same terminology and explicitly pointing out the parallels between your qualifications and the employer's business needs, the reader can easily see the similarities. This leads them into your well-written resume, where your skills and accomplishments convince them you're a candidate worth further consideration.
If you're a job seeker, do you target your cover letters for each employer? If you're a hiring manager, can you tell who's taken the time to target their cover letter to your needs? In either case, does it really make a difference?
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