Healthcare Cover Letter Tips
First impressions count in the job search, and that's why a dynamite cover letter can mean the difference between success and failure in your healthcare job search. But what makes a dazzling healthcare cover letter? Several career experts share their advice.
Get to the Point
State the purpose of your letter in the first paragraph. Small talk is generally a waste of space. "Most of the cover letters we do for clients are three paragraphs or so and fill less than a page," says Shel Horowitz, director of Accurate Writing & More in Hadley, Massachusetts.
Tailor Your Letter to the Reader
Focus on the needs of the specific healthcare organization, not on your own requirements as a job seeker, says Lorna Lindsey, director of academic affairs for CompHealth, a healthcare recruiting and staffing firm based in Salt Lake City. Visit your potential healthcare employer's Web site or read the company's annual report to learn more about it, and then use your cover letter to demonstrate how your skills and experience can benefit the organization.
Maintain the Right Tone
A cover letter should be "businesslike, friendly and enthusiastic," says Bill Frank, founder of CareerLab in Denver and author of 200 Letters for Job Hunters.
Healthcare professionals have the "opportunity to reveal their passion" through a cover letter, but the document "shouldn't become too syrupy, or it loses its objectivity and professionalism," says Lorne Weeks III, MD, a healthcare consultant for the Physician Career Network, a division of CareerLab.
Make It Memorable
New healthcare graduates can make their cover letters stand out by personalizing their stories. If you decided to model your career after a healthcare professional who helped a family member, for example, tell that story rather than making the blander claim that you've always wanted to help people. "If your story is unique, it's no longer a cliche," Frank says.
Stay on Track
The best cover letters are direct and concise, says Kathy Campbell, employment and employee relations manager at Holy Spirit Health System in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. "Don't include a lot of unnecessary personal information," she says.
Highlight Your Biggest Successes
Your healthcare cover letter shouldn't just summarize your career or repeat the same information from your resume, according to Wendy Enelow, founder of the Career Masters Institute in Fresno, California. "You want it to highlight the successes and achievements of your career that are most related to the types of positions for which you are applying," she says.
According to Frank, you should mention career-related "triples and home runs" in your cover letter.
Use Power Phrases
Use strong action words to convey your healthcare experiences and illustrate your healthcare qualifications with phrases like "I have a strong background in" and "I have a talent for," Lindsey says.
Don't be shy about selling yourself, Enelow notes, since that's the purpose of a cover letter.
Show Your Team Spirit
If you have room for a few extra sentences in your cover letter, Lindsey suggests emphasizing your teamwork and communication skills. "In this day and age, teamwork and communication are vitally important in almost every healthcare position, from the lowest to the highest paid," she says.
Spice Up Your Writing
Effective cover letters are a little different from all the others but still straightforward, experts say. For example, the boring, traditional way to start a cover letter is: "I am writing in response to your advertisement for a nurse and have enclosed my resume for your review." The better cover letter beginning could be: "Your ad on Monster for a nurse captured my attention and motivated me to learn more about this healthcare opportunity." Then describe how your healthcare qualifications match the employer's needs.
An unforgivable error some job seekers make is failing to follow up after promising to do so in a cover letter. If you write in your cover letter that you'll call the letter recipient on a certain day or by a specific deadline, do it.
- Provide salary information when it is not requested.
- Address a letter recipient by anything other than his name. Avoid "Dear Sirs" at all costs.
- Write a canned, generic letter that looks like it was copied from a book.
- Start the first paragraph and too many other sentences with "I."
- Make spelling errors and typos.
- Handwrite a cover letter.
- Use shoddy paper, or paper that's different from your resume paper.
- Cram too much information into a small space.
- Include irrelevant personal information or job experience.
- Overstate your accomplishments or contradict your resume.
Learn more about healthcare careers.
By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA
Having a well-written resume can go a long way toward getting you that job interview, but that’s only half the story. You also need a compelling cover letter. (See Resume Writing Do’s and Don’ts.)
Always use a cover letter when sending a resume. If you’re faxing a resume, fax a cover letter, too. Your cover letter is your opportunity to provide a short narrative about yourself and let a bit of your personality come through. Here are six ways to make the best impression with your letter.
1. Your cover letter must be word processed, not hand written. It should be printed on the same stationery as your resume for the most professional presentation. Be sure to include a heading on your stationery that includes your name and address centered at the top of the page.
2. Use a traditional business letter format that starts with the recipient’s name and title, facility name, and address. If you don’t have a specific person’s name, address the letter to “Human Resources Department” or something similar. Don’t forget to include the date.
3. Use a formal salutation such as “Dear Mr. Rogers” or “Dear Ms. Reynolds.” Ms. is the universal form of address for a woman. If you don’t have a person’s name and are replying to an ad that simply says “Send to Human Resources Department,” address the letter with “Dear Human Resources Professional” or “Dear Nurse Recruiter” as appropriate. Some prefer to use “Dear Sir/Madam.” Be sure to use both genders so as not to offend anyone; never use “To whom it may concern.”
4. Your opening paragraph should immediately state what position you’re applying for or are interested in. If you’re responding to a classified ad, you should also state the name and date of the publication in which the ad appeared. If you’re writing because of a referral, state what you’re interested in and who referred you. For example: “Karen Allen in accounting suggested I contact you about opportunities in the occupational health department” or “I’m applying for the utilization review coordinator position advertised in the Sunday Star Ledger on January 16, 2000.”
Say something complimentary about the company, its product or service, or the person you’re writing to, if you can. For example: “Health East has an excellent reputation in the community and I would like to be a part of your team.”
5. The second paragraph should briefly state what skills and experience you would bring to the position. This is where you customize. In other words, rather than repeat what’s in your resume, highlight the specific experience pertinent to this job. You also might mention some additional experiences or special classes you attended that are pertinent to the job but not mentioned in your resume. Some examples would be staff development sessions attended or volunteer work. Remember to be brief.
6. End the letter on an upbeat note, such as “I look forward to hearing from you so we can discuss our mutual interests.” Add your phone number and the best time to reach you. End the letter with “Sincerely” or a similar closing. Type your name several lines down, and then sign the cover letter.
Use an assertive, confident tone throughout. Rather than say “I hope you’ll find my experience to be appropriate” say something such as, “I’m confident that my experience and personality will allow me to contribute significantly to your department.”
Don’t use stilted language such as “Enclosed please find my resume for your review.” Rather, write the way you speak: “I’m enthusiastically applying for a position as an occupational health nurse.”
A persuasive cover letter that enhances and supports your resume can help you get your foot in the door for that all-important interview. The two can be a powerful pair.
Reprinted with permission from Nurses.com (www.nurses.com).
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