5 Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Pop, Not Flop

Published: Jul 09, 2015

5 Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Pop, Not Flop
July 9, 2014
By Angela Rose for BioSpace.com

"You never get a second chance to make a good first impression." The Internet has attributed this well-known adage to Will Rogers, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde as well as various historic advertising campaigns—including that of Head and Shoulders. While we may never know who actually authored this bit of wit, one thing is certain: it is decidedly true when you’re searching for a job. If you’re a scientist on the hunt for your next position, your cover letter is your first chance to make a good impression—so make sure it rocks rather than flops. How can you do this? Consider the following tips.

1. Submit a matched pair.
Your cover letter should look as though it belongs with your resume. This requires exercising consistency in design. Utilize the same font, font size, margins, and spacing. If you’re submitting hardcopies to a hospital or clinic hiring manger, output them on the same paper using the same printer. This creates a professional, packaged appearance that shows you’ve put some effort into presentation.

2. Use the hiring manager’s name.
You only have a few moments to establish a personal connection, and using the hiring manager’s name is the easiest way to do so. If the content of the job posting doesn’t include a contact, take the time to find out who will read your cover letter first. It may be as easy as calling the main reception and making an enquiry. If you cannot uncover this information, do not use “To whom it may concern” or “Dear hiring manager.” It’s better to address no one at all.

3. Mention a mutual contact.
If a fellow scientist or someone who works at the company referred you, mention their name in your opening paragraph. This illustrates that you already have a relationship of sorts with the employer, and it is one of the fastest ways to distinguish your cover letter from all the rest.

4. Get to the point.
While your cover letter should convey polite professionalism, there’s no need for rambling pleasantries. Remember, you only have a few moments to capture the interest of the person who can hire you for your next job. For best results, construct an opening paragraph that summarizes your qualifications as well as your objective. For example:

Rambling: “Thank you for taking the time to review my cover letter and resume for the position of Scientist—Biology at Company X. I know you are busy and sincerely appreciate this opportunity to tell you a little about my background and experience in the life science field.”

To-the-Point: “As a Clinical Data Manager with five years in the industry, I have helped organizations reach their goals of pushing a drug through the Phase II process. These qualifications have prompted my application to Company X for the position of Clinical Data Manager II position.”

5. Don’t repeat your resume.
If you want your cover letter to flop, repeat everything you’ve said in your resume—just do it in paragraph form. A rocking cover letter—one that captures attention and increases your chances of landing an interview—illustrates your qualifications differently. Find ways to show your personality and tell a story while elaborating on accomplishments. For example, you might mention the event that originally sparked your interest in pursuing a career in science and how it led you to where you are today.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, hiring managers spend less than 60 seconds reviewing each cover letter they receive. Use that time to make a good first impression with your cover letter and they could become the most important 60 seconds of your career.

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