After telling reviewers that you're the ideal candidate for the job in the opening paragraph of your cover letter, you have to prove it. That's what the second and third paragraphs are about.
The Second Paragraph
After a brief segue that describes what's to come, highlight three or four relevant and specific examples of your technical skills, competencies and/or achievements that back up your claims. Select examples that demonstrate your understanding of each company's individual needs and why you're the best person to meet them. Don't be generic — one letter won't work for multiple employers. Remember that screeners look for reasons to eliminate candidates, so you have to help them connect the dots by focusing on examples that match the job description's top requirements. Most candidates use bullet points to make their competencies stand out. Others prefer to list a key job requirement followed by an experience bullet, while still others like to present their information in side-by-side columns. Any of these approaches work, as long as you're clear and professional. Here's an example: During my three years developing state-of-the-art Web-based enterprise systems for the U.S. Armed Forces, I acquired a host of transferable skills and accomplished the following:
- Expanded and transitioned a prototype software system that helped an established user community perform their analytical tasks more effectively and efficiently. Because the domain involved human-behavior modeling and causal reasoning, to succeed I needed the desire and ability to learn and understand advanced concepts, both within and outside the realm of software engineering.
- Worked closely with customers and users and a top-notch team of software engineers and scientists to design and implement user-centered applications that reduced decision-making time in critical situations by 15 percent. Uniting stakeholders with diverse interests and priorities toward a common goal was my specialty.
The Third Paragraph
Now that you've made your case, it's time to make your sales pitch. The third paragraph is where you assemble all the pieces and reiterate your value proposition in two to three sentences. It's the perfect place to highlight your personal brand or mention awards and commendations from managers and co-workers. And by all means, let your enthusiasm and technical passion shine through. Here’s a sample: After researching ABC Company, I understand that your immediate goal is to penetrate new markets, which is why I'm very interested in your analyst position. I'm an intuitive, dynamic professional with a positive attitude and an uncanny ability to spot untapped opportunities. In fact, my colleagues refer to me as: "Radar Joe." I performed a similar role as an intern at XYZ Company, where I obtained extensive experience with SQL Server and knowledge of data-warehouse design and development. The bottom line is this: I will hit the ground running and help increase revenue within 30 days. By now, they'll be taking you seriously — as long as you've tailored your pitch to show how you can help that employer specifically.