Decoding the Job Description                                                   

You see a job description posted and think “that is the perfect job for me.”  Before you attach your resume and hit send, stop to prepare a compelling, customized cover letter.  A cover letter will help you highlight how your skills and experience will add value in this position.  Do not assume that the hiring manager can make the connections by just reading your resume.  To effectively customize your cover letter you need to decode the job description.

Company Research

Read the company overview in the job description and focus on what key messages the company is sending to interested candidates.  Is this a company you want to be part of and why?  Check their website.  Talk to people in your network who have worked for this company or are there currently.  Review recent press coverage.  Develop a clear vision of why you want to work for this organization.

Job Overview

Read the job overview carefully and highlight critical skills and experience they are seeking.  Are there key characteristics of their ideal candidate that apply to you?  Focus on what key factors you bring to the table for this specific position.

Critical Responsibilities

Review the list of specific, critical responsibilities.  What have you already done before?  What have you had exposure to in the past?  Do you have the skills to meet these responsibilities?  What would be the learning opportunities and challenges in this role.  See where their priorities and your skills and interest align.


Be realistic.  It is a wish list.  You are not likely to have every requirement on the list.  Focus on what you do bring to the table.  If you have a track record of learning new systems, that could overcome knowledge of their specific system.  If you have learned a new industry in the past, it demonstrates a strong likelihood that you could do it again.  Emphasize what you bring to the table in your cover letter.  Do now mention skills you don’t have but be prepared to address those if asked in an interview.

Carefully reviewing the job description and highlighting critical skills and experience will help you write a compelling, focused, customized cover letter and that significantly increases your chances of being invited to interview.



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