Inside a great financial services cover letter

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You have a great resume, but if you ever want it read, you need an introduction that has impact, and that means a great cover letter that separates you from the rest of the pack.

With the financial services sector having experienced such a drastic reduction in force in recent years, the competition for jobs today is tougher than ever. There are literally thousands of qualified, experienced, motivated professionals applying for a relative handful of opportunities.

So what is it that will get the hiring manager to look at your resume?  Many career experts suggest that you focus your attention and energy on creating a dynamic cover letter. A cover letter is a sales letter. It’s selling you.

Before the digital age, resumes were always accompanied by a cover letter, swaddled in a blanket of bravado. But today, more often than not, resumes sail through as e-mail attachments or are up-and-downloaded completely naked. The cover letter has become the most neglected part of the job hunting process. Ironically, it can still be the difference between you getting your foot in the door, or being left still standing outside, clutching your grand resume.

And while a good cover letter may help you a bit, a poor one will almost certainly kill your chances entirely. Here’s what many professionals have found to be the key factors in creating a cover letter that works:

  1. Capture Attention. You need to speak to the employer’s needs, not yours. What can you do for them better than anyone else? What skills (tangible and intangible) can you provide that it is costly or difficult to train others to do?
  2. Summarize your competencies. Define your core, providing your level of experience in the financial world with comparable positions or with similar firms.
  3. Visualize your value. Provide quantifiable examples of your accomplishments when possible. Exemplify your impact on past financial firms. Make this potential employer able to easily see your success translating to them.
  4. Light on the lingo. Include some industry jargon; it shows you can talk the talk. While buzzwords and jargon used to be viewed as ignoble and uncreative, today’s database filters seek relevant words. These can raise your readability score especially if you use the same keywords that appear in the job description. Caution: a little goes a long way.

    1. Call to Action. Create a sense of immediacy about meeting. Mention a date or two that you are available to share some of your ideas for the company. Close the deal.
    2. Brevity.  Keep it short and sweet. One page, no more. Any longer and it will not be read.

If you haven’t spent a painful evening or two on your cover letter, you haven’t done enough to get that next position. Today’s firms are keenly interested in the right “fit,” and cover letters give them a first insight into your personality. But once resumes have been culled, and you are among those still standing, your cover letter can and will set you apart from the other candidates. Make sure it represents you well.

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