Cover letters are often used in relation to the career search and to
situations where you need to introduce your qualifications and
clearly state your purpose for writing. Frequently, when you are
applying for a new course program or attempting to enter a
specialized school or post-graduate academic program, you will
have to prepare a number of documents that present your credentials
and use a cover letter to introduce yourself. When replying to
an ad from the newspaper or magazine, your letter should be specific
and targeted directly at the company and the skills required in
the position. More general cover letters, called broadcast letters,
are sometimes used to search for a suitable position in a company
that has not openly advertised an open position. Other, less commonly
used cover letters may be needed when appealing to a college
administrator for permission to enter a program or to overstep
regulations because of special circumstances.
When companies are hiring, they generally like to buy results, such as: increased
sales, decreased costs, and special expertise. To show that you would be able to
increase profits, you will need to state your accomplishments and problem-solving
abilities. To demonstrate your special skills, use examples of accomplishments that
reflect your value in less direct ways.
- Sell your accomplishments and your relevant experience
- If possible, go back five to ten years
- Limit your letter to no more than two, uncrowded pages
- Omit personal data
- Omit salary
- Omit employment dates
- Omit references
- Include your resume (when it has been requested)
Care and Cautions
Carelessness can be costly when you're job searching. If you misspell
an executive's name, or use an incorrect title, you're unwittingly
telling an employer something about yourself. An easy way to confirm
the spelling of a person's name is to simply pick up the telephone
and call the company. A receptionist will be pleased to supply the
information. Overlooked sources of basic information about many companies
can be found from the telephone book, or at the public library.
If you will be mailing a cover letter and resume by regular post, be
certain to use bond quality paper in a pastel color that would not be
inappropriate for the kind of position.
The Targeted Letter
The customized, targeted letter is aimed at a particular company and
individual you have identified as a prime employment target. The
content of your letter should reflect knowledge of the company and
its specific needs.
The Ad Response Letter
Often, an employer will receive hundreds of responses to a single
classified ad. Those responses must then be screened and divided into
two piles: yes or no. Unless your letter is first sorted into the yes pile,
you won't stand a chance. To make the employer's job easier, make certain
that your opening paragraph addresses and satisfies the basic job
requirements printed in the ad.
When you've completed a letter, step back and let a friend read it. Some
things that may seem obvious to you, can seem less clear to a more
objective reader. Re-write the letter as many times as it takes,
until you're sure that a reader will say, "Now this is someone
I'd like to meet."
Cover Letters That Count!
Employers are receiving more cover letters and resumes than ever before.
May's release of new college grads into the job market will even further
the clutter. To set your self apart from the job-hunting pack, you'll need
to have an effective cover letter. The cover letter is your first
opportunity to impress an employer. It is the first thing they read and,
if it's not good, it may be the only thing the employer reads at all.
First, take time to look at some cover letter examples. CareerLab has a
library of sample cover letters. Similarly, About.com has a cover letter
guide that will walk you through the writing process. Each site contains
good examples of basic letters, however, you'll really need to personalize
yours to catch the employer's eye.
Next, jot down some notes on what you want to include in your letter. Match
your skills with the skills the employer is asking for in the job description.
Always address your cover letter to a specific person. If there isn't a contact
person listed in the ad, look online for the name and job title of the
person responsible for hiring but also call the company and verify that person
is still in that position.
Nuts and Bolts
Writing your cover letter may be easier if you divide it into three sections:
The first paragraph states why you are writing. The next explains why you are
ideal for the position. And the final paragraph closes by stating how you
plan to follow-up.
In the first section, indicate how you learned about the opening and mention
the job title. The middle paragraph should relate your skills and abilities
to the qualifications listed in the job posting. Address how you meet those
qualifications with direct examples from your resume. Be open and clear about
what you have to offer the prospective employer.
Throughout the entire letter, use clear and simple sentences so the reader
doesn't have to decipher what you're trying to say. Keep paragraphs short
so they are easy to skim. Proof read. Then proof read again. Even a small
typo can look like a glaring error and may reflect on your ability to
perform accurate work. Read your letter out loud. Does it make sense? Ask
someone else to review it for you. Sometimes it's hard to catch our own mistakes.
Finally, let the employer know how you plan to follow-up. Be direct and
indicate that you will call to set up an appointment at a mutually
convenient time. If the job ad specifically says not to call, thank the
employer for his or her consideration and let them know you look
forward to hearing from them.
Once you have written the letter, then you will need to make it look good.
The visual appearance of your cover letter is just as important as that
of your resume. Consider using bullets or bold fonts to draw attention to the
skills you wish to highlight.
Print your cover letter on standard size laser bond paper that matches your
resume paper. Use conservative colors like white or beige. Brightly colored
paper will not get you the type of attention you want. Use one-inch margins
and balance your paragraphs on the page. Most importantly, don't forget
to sign your letter. If you are sending a cover letter via email, cut
and paste it into the body of an email message since many people are
leery of opening attachments.
A well-written cover letter is worth the time investment. It's the first
tool an employer will use to decide whether to interview you or not. So,
make your cover letters count!
-Lee Marc, Co-Founder of ResumeRabbit.com
Cover Letter/Message To Employer
For hiring managers, choosing between two candidates with comparable
resumes often comes down to the content of their cover letters.
Though tailored letters should be written specifically for each position
you're applying to, following these fundamentals can increase your
chances of securing interviews.
Research before you write: The more you know about the employer's needs,
the more compelling your letter can be. Determine your unique selling points:
Set yourself apart. List the top five reasons why you're an excellent candidate.
Constructing the Letter
- Heading/Date/Inside Address: Use a standard, business-letter format
that matches your resume.
- Salutation: Always address a specific person if possible;
use "Dear Hiring Manager" if not.
- Opening Paragraph: Clearly indicate the position you're applying for, how
you were referred to the opportunity and why you're an excellent
candidate for the job.
- Body: Demonstrate how your credentials, experience and track record will
benefit the hiring company.
- Closing Paragraph: Provide a call to action for the hiring manager;
restate you strong interest in an interview.
- Complimentary Close and Signature: End with a professional close such
as "Best regards," "Sincerely" or "Respectfully."