Organize, Optimize and Customize to Personalize Your Cover Letter

By Kristy Amburgeycover-letters

A cover letter is a beneficial tool that you should utilize as often as possible during your job or internship search.  In order to create an effective but personal document, you want to organize, optimize and customize your cover letter.

Organize

A good cover letter is an organized document where content flows from one point to the next in a concise manner.  It is recommended that you format your cover letter as you would a one-page business letter and that you use a three paragraph format.  Each paragraph will explain specific information in an organized and flowing fashion.

As a good rule of thumb, the first paragraph will introduce you to your audience, provide details about the job you are pursuing and then show why you are interested in the company and job.  The second paragraph will tell the employer exactly how you will help them achieve results.  Using your previous experiences and accomplishments, you want to establish three to four achievements that relate directly to the job you are pursuing, and you will use the job description and your knowledge of the company/job type to select the related accomplishments.  The third paragraph will close the letter and provide your contact information.

Even if you use different formats like an extra paragraph or a bulleted summary, you need to ensure that the organization of the document makes logical sense.  Keep the document succinct yet able to market your skills and accomplishments as related to the job.

Optimize

In order to get results from your cover letter, it should efficiently and effectively show an employer why you are the right candidate for the job, optimizing your most applicable and marketable skills.  The letter should be useful to a potential employer and provide actual details that matter to the reader.

In order to optimize your cover letter, you need to be accurate, provide information that is usable and make the document perfect.  That means that everything from the degree information to your outcomes achieved must be verifiably correct.  It also means that you need to provide the reader, your target audience, details that are relevant and not just list historical information that may or may not matter.  Finally, you need to make the cover letter perfect, meaning that the document should be error free, that everything is spelled correctly, that you are using proper grammar and that you have made it convenient for the person to find key information about you.

Take your time to optimize your cover letter to its fullest extent, giving the employer what they need to make a decision in your favor.

Customize

A cover letter should be customized for each and every job you pursue.  From the personalized salutation to the job description-identified content, you need to do your research and create a document just for that one job.  A generic document that you send en-mass is not an effective use of your time, and employers will find it hard to see value in this type of document since it is not really showing them beneficial information.

To customize a cover letter, thoroughly review the job description and understand the company culture.  Integrate key concepts that you find, matching your background, into the document.  To really customize the letter, take these steps.

  • After reading the description, highlight the key words, phrases or elements  on which you feel an employer would place the most value
  • Then, go back through your highlighted content and match these words to your background
  • Next, select three to four of those elements to integrate into the second paragraph of your cover letter as evidence-based stories, where you showcase your achievements as related to the employer’s needs

Your research and knowledge of the company can also show up in the first paragraph to help you produce a solid opening section.

By creating a document for a specific company and job, you are better able to help the employer see what you can offer them and how you might fit into their organization.  Customizing also shows an employer that you took the time to understand their needs and create something just for them.

Organize.  Optimize.  Customize.  Consider each of these actions as you compose cover letters.  It should be your goal to relate your experiences and accomplishments to the companies’ needs, making it easy for readers to see what you can do for them.  Ensure that each letter you submit achieves this goal.

Visit the Career Services website for additional cover letter information and samples.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

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