If you’re looking for a job in the healthcare field, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time writing your resume or CV. What you might not have paid as much attention to is the cover letter. The cover letter is as important as your resume, some might even say it’s more important.

This is your first chance to introduce yourself to a prospective hiring manager. A good cover letter will get them to pay attention to your resume. Let’s face it, there are only so many was to make a resume stand out on its own, especially for an open position where there might be dozens or even hundreds of applicants.

Many job seekers don’t take full advantage of the opportunity the cover letter affords them in making a good first impression. If you master the art of writing a tailored and succinct letter, you’re that much ahead of the competition.

What to Include in Your Cover Letter

Writing a cover letter is an art form. A lot of people will have resumes written professionally (which is a fine option). The cover letter is a different animal because it needs to be personalized for the position and the specific hiring manager. It’s best if you write your own cover letters.

Things to include:

  • The Recipient’s Name. Some organizations use web portals to upload your resume and cover letter. This doesn’t mean that you should skip the step of finding out who to address your letter to. A personalized letter gets more favorable attention. Doing the extra research to see who the hiring manager is will also give you added information to tailor your resume to their tastes.
  • Specific Information About the Organization, Position and Why You’d Like to Work with Them. The cover letter doesn’t just highlight how great you are. A good cover letter shows prospective employers how good you would be in their organization. A great way to get that across is to mention things about their organization or the position which excite you and pointing out how you can contribute to their mission.
  • A Short Bio that Highlights Skills You Have that They Need. Your bio area shouldn’t be a recap of your resume. Instead, focus on skills you have that benefit their position. If you pay close attention to their job ad, you can align the skills you highlight directly with what they’re looking for in a future employee.
  • Explanation for Anything that Might Negatively Stand Out in Your Resume. If you have time lapses between employment or if you’re in one specialty but this position is in a different specialty, the cover letter is the perfect place to address this. Your resume includes just the facts. Your cover letter can clearly indicate why you’d like to change specialties or reasons you may have lapses in employment.

What to Leave Our of Your Cover Letter

Your cover letter isn’t just about what to include. Knowing what to leave out is just as important. Cover letters should not be lengthy. Hiring managers are often stretched for time and want easy to skim information. You want your cover letter to be succinct – short and to the point. It shouldn’t be longer than a page and often you can get everything in 4 or 5 short paragraphs.

Here’s what you shouldn’t include:

  • Everything in Your Resume. You’ve already attached your resume. You don’t need to reiterate what’s in there.
  • Don’t Highlight Your Faults. Honesty is a great trait but pointing out a lot of things that make you unqualified is a bad strategic move. If there is experience you don’t have, it would be better to point out how the experience you do have is transferrable to the position.
  • Anything Negative About Past or Current Employment. If you’re leaving your current job because you’re unhappy in the environment or with coworkers, don’t speak badly of them to prospective employers. First, it gives a bad impression of you. Someone who has personal conflicts where they work may be difficult to work with, so it becomes a red flag. Second, you never know if the person you’re talking to at a new organization has any relationships or history with your past employer.

Cover letters should convey a professional tone. You can and should be personable, as well. Avoid being overly casual until you’ve developed a rapport with the hiring manager. For instance, you can use their first name in subsequent correspondence if they sign email by first name only.