hands on keyboard - job seeker writing cover letter

The cover letter (or cover email) remains a vital part of today’s interview process. While the boring old, impersonal “to whom it may concern” cover letter may indeed be a thing of the past, the personalized, well-written professional cover “email” or letter is still very much alive and well.

The value of cover letters

A resume, and its accompanying cover letter, represent your initial “handshake” with a potential employer. As mentioned in a recent blog, these documents show how you (the aviation candidate) choose to communicate. If they’re done well, they can easily help you stand out from the crowd.

So, if your letter is the first impression with a prospective employer, what exactly should go into it?

Here are three cover letter basics:

1. Personalization

Let’s say you were meeting a hiring manager in person for the first time. You would never shake hands and say: “Nice to meet you, to whom it may concern.” That would be bizarre! So why would you make the very same outdated and impersonal salutation in your letter?

Thanks to a plethora of online resources like LinkedIn and NBAA’s Member Directory, it’s fairly easy to find the names of corporate HR recruiters and/or the aviation hiring manager. It pays to go the extra step and research his or her background and a bit about the company so you know the titles and addresses of those to whom you’re sending your letter.

2. Packaging

Whether it’s an email or a hardcopy, your letter should be customized, professional and a bit formal in its composition and tone. Remember, it’s a business letter so use a more structured format (e.g., no indentations).

When sending an email, be sure to convert both your resume and letter into PDFs. That way your content will never be edited or appear differently on a screen, and, secondly, it’s less likely to contain an unwanted virus.

If you’re mailing a hardcopy, give some thought to coordinating the paper stock with that of your resume, and check to see that you’re using the same typographic fonts and styles throughout. You can read more resume writing and formatting tips on our blog.

3. Messaging

Your cover letter should be compelling. It should make me want to turn the page (or open another document) to see what’s in your resume.

Overall, the content should reflect a high-level view into what you’ve done during your career, which is what we always recommend for our outplacement candidates who are looking for new roles.

First paragraph: Introduce yourself, grab their attention and explain why you are writing. Tell them what job you are applying for, where you learned about it and who referred you to the job, if someone did.

Second paragraph: Think about a talent that you uniquely possess and talk about your most distinguishing, but relevant, characteristic that align with the job and/or connect with their corporate culture or mission can be helpful if it is indeed honest.  It shows that you have researched the company. You may also choose to highlight a unique talent or characteristic you possess by using a brief story or anecdote to make yourself more relatable and memorable.

Third paragraph: In conclusion, thank the reader for their time and tell them what the next step is or give a call to action. Let them how to reach you, or better yet, that you will call them next week to follow up. Then, be sure to do it!

With all that’s been said, it should be apparent that cover letters remain one of the most important introductory tools you can use to help you position yourself at one of the most critical job-seeking stages.

You might have all the experience, talent and charisma in the world when you’re “one-on-one” in a live meeting, but at that point when you’re being vetted by the value you offer on paper alone, your cover letter is a way to put your best foot forward.

So, in closing, never dismiss the cover letter as being “old school.” Craft one with care and distinction, and ensure that it tells a story—YOUR story.

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