Improving your Cover Letter to Better your Chances of Cutting through the Clutter

U.S. economists project 1.6 million new and vacant job openings for nurses through 2020.  With those stats, you might think getting a nursing job straight out of school is a sure thing.  The fact is, although a stronger economy and a burgeoning need for nurses is anticipated well into the next decade, there are simply more new nursing school graduates in the job market than the number of openings. Even with a BSN degree or higher, you can expect to be up against some pretty intense competition.  Among the deluge of job applications received by nurse employers across the nation, only the memorable ones make it to the “A” list.  Which ones? Assuming that your credentials are on par with your nursing grad peers, applicants with a cover letter get noticed.  Those with an amazing cover letter are more apt to get interviewed.   If you think your cover letter is not working as hard as it could be, it’s time to change your approach.  Here are some tips to help you stand out from the crowd.

Your cover letter and resume are two different documents­­— one complements the other. Together they can make you shine. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of writing a cover letter that restates what your resume highlights.  Keep in mind that your resume is a blueprint of your experience (your work history, a summary of your skills, abilities and accomplishments) whereas your cover letter demonstrates your interest in the position and emphasizes why your skills, abilities and accomplishments are a good fit for the job.

When responding to a job opening, write your cover letter with a problem/solution approach.

Start by researching the employer to look for ways you can position yourself as a valuable asset. Here are some examples:

  • If you are applying for an entry level nursing position at a hospital, read that hospital’s website in depth. Focus on current news, blogs, and social media channels if available to identify potential challenges the hospital might be facing—for which you can convincingly sell yourself as a solution. Through your research you might discover that the hospital has a high employee turnover rate from excessive workloads, burnout, and stress.  You can refer to this in your cover letter and mention that during your training at an ambulatory care facility, you helped your preceptor organize a tension-relief group which resulted in fewer nurses calling out sick.
  • If you are open to relocating to another U.S. city and are pursing nursing opportunities in more than one market, make sure that your cover letter demonstrates your familiarity with that region’s patient demographics and staffing requirements. If you are seeking employment at a hospital treating a large elderly population and you have a good handle on using mechanical lifting equipment from your experience in a critical care setting, use that information to sell yourself. This approach works well when you are trying to create a job opportunity where one does not yet exist.  Angling yourself as someone who wants to fill a future need can keep you top of mind when employers are looking to hire.
  • If you are applying for a staff nurse position in a specific area of a hospital, such as the Intensive Care Unit, try to uncover any issues affecting the unit. In your cover letter, pinpoint how your level of experience will help with challenges the unit faces or might encounter down the line.
  • If you have exhausted all of your research options for the employer and cannot identify any problems relevant to your professional skills or experiences, then reveal something insightful about yourself and tie that in with the responsibilities of the job. Pay attention to job posting keywords.

Cover letter basics: formatting, grammar, and word choice

  • Open your cover letter with a personal salutation. “To whom it may concern” is impersonal. If you don’t know the name of the person receiving your application, then say, “Dear Hiring Manager” as a last option.
  • Take an active vs. passive voice. Rather than say “The job is well-suited to my skills,” (which is passive) say, “My skills are an excellent match for your needs.”
  • Select words that motivate employers to hire you. Here are a few to work into your cover letter: Assessed, benefited, demonstrated, enriched, guided, initiated, integrated, logged, mentored, sustained, supported, simplified, strengthened.
  • Watch your language and your tone. Avoid slang words, clichés, buzzwords, and overused terms. For example, rather than call yourself a “team-player,” tell about the time you stayed after your shift to help your co-workers deal with a difficult situation.
  • Keep it short and to the point. One page, with three to five short paragraphs, will keep an employer invested.
  • Choose a simple font (nothing artsy), and create a pleasing format with lots of white space to improve legibility and increase reader attention.
  • Close your cover letter with a thank you and a call to action. Be positive and discuss next steps. Closing with “I welcome the chance to speak with you and look forward to discussing my qualifications further” leaves the ball in the employer’s court and demonstrates your confidence in a respectful way.
  • Set your cover letter aside for several hours after writing it. Then revisit it for spelling mistakes, clarity, and impact. If all looks good, then send it knowing it is mistake-free.

To get more advice on topics relevant to the nursing profession, rely on BOS Medical.  Whether you are looking for tips on how to handle challenges in the workplace or want to pursue your career options, our nursing and healthcare staffing recruiters go above and beyond to match each of our candidates to the right job.  Contact BOS Medical today to find your next opportunity.

 

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