I just edited a cover letter to add in more specifics about the position and correlate the person's past experience with their needs. Usually, those letters are more effective than the ones that simply talk about your experience.
A cover letter is a marketing tool. The goal of any marketing is to demonstrate that you understand your market's challenges and have the experience and skills to help them meet those challenges. Thus a great cover letter will make the case for why you (the product or service) are the right person for job (solution) at the company (your market). A great cover letter will help an inside connection make the case for you, too.
From my own experience writing and editing hundreds of cover letters, two great marketing tools for a cover letter are:
* Do the analysis for the employer
* Speak the employer's language
Here's a simple way to construct a targeted cover letter: take the lead responsibilities and craft sentences that blend your experience with language from the posting, to show the match between your background and their need. For example, this is the first responsibility of a job for a facilities and space planner at a financial institution:
- Understand key business and market drivers and develop workable long-term and implementation plans that support business needs and meet annual and multi-year portfolio performance targets.
For the cover letter, I take key words and write a sentence something like this:
At [name] Investments, I developed and oversaw the implementation of many excellent and workable facility plans that enabled a range of internal clients to increase their business effectiveness and meet their performance goals.
I used the words "implementation," "workable," "business" and "performance" from the posting to match my experience to that responsibility. Using the word "workable" was key to because it is an uncommon word that is specific to this posting. Words like "implementation" and "performance" are likely to be picked up on a key word search.
I also could have used the phrase "business and market drivers" because it is clearly a buzz term for the company. In a complete letter, I would probably insert this phrase somewhere else to reinforce that I understand their core business needs and fit in with their culture.
Hope this helps!