Not everyone who’s reading resumes will ask for a cover letter. Everyone who’s sending resumes, however, should most definitely write one. That’s because a cover letter is your chance to build upon your resume in order to tell potential employers not only what you’ve done in the past, but also what you will do—for them—in the future.
Cover letters are among the most powerful sales tools in a job applicant’s toolbox. They are a value-add to the run-of-the-mill resume and they allow job hunters to showcase, in addition to their work history, their personality and qualifications, not to mention their writing skills. Good cover letters are short and sweet, and the very best:
1. Are free of spelling errors.
2. Are addressed to the person who can hire you.
3. Are written in your own voice.
4. Show that you know something about the employer.
5. Highlight skills important to the employer and the industry.
Identify yourself in your resume cover letterA good resume cover letter starts with a professional heading and an appropriate salutation. Put your name, address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address at the top of the page, along with the date. Include the contact information for your potential employer, as well.
Use sample cover letters to help you write a great first paragraphA great resume cover letter is useless if nobody reads it. Make sure somebody does by writing an interesting, attention-getting first paragraph. Be creative. Include important information—such as where you found out about the job opening, what position you’re applying for and why you’re interested in it—but start with a memorable opening sentence that will truly distinguish you from other candidates.
Research the company before you write your resume cover letterShow early on in your resume cover letter that you know something about the company at which you’re applying to work. Demonstrate right away that you know what the company does, what its values are and what it looks for in its employees. Use words in your cover letter that the company uses on its Web site or in its job posting to show that you understand its culture and its language.
Highlight your qualifications in your resume cover letterCover letters are a place to build upon your resume—not to reiterate it. In your second and third paragraphs, then, explore your unique qualifications and take time to authentically describe them. Show; don’t tell. In other words, instead of saying you’re a good problem solver, offer an anecdote from your work history that effectively illustrates your problem-solving skills. Be specific, not general, about your accomplishments and focus on what you can bring to the job, not on what the job can bring to you.
directory of resume consultants. Software like the Perfect Cover Letters Starter Package, which includes writing tutorials as well as a full library of sample cover letters and templates, might also prove helpful.
End your cover letter on a professional noteEnd your resume cover letter by asking for an interview and by reminding the employer that you will follow up to confirm receipt of your resume. Promising to follow up—and then actually doing so—demonstrates the kind of persistence and follow-through that many employers look for.
directory of thank you letters for jobs.
Edit your resume cover letter before you send itMake sure your cover letter is laid out professionally and formatted appropriately. Check for spelling and punctuation errors and make sure you’ve used good grammar and a professional vocabulary. Finally, ensure that your cover letter is short—less than one page—and easy to read.
About.com, which offers a complete guide to writing business letters. Don’t forget to print your cover letter on the same professional grade paper on which you print your resume; consider a heavier weight specialty paper, which you can find at OfficeMax, FedEx Kinko’s and Office Depot.
- Remember: The resume tells and the cover letter sells. Keep facts in your resume and fill your cover letter with personality and panache, instead.
- Address your cover letter to a specific person—the hiring manager, for instance, or the human resources officer—rather than a generic “Sir or Madame.” If you don’t know who to address the letter to, call the company and ask.
- If you’re applying for several positions within the same company, send a separate cover letter for each. Letters often are separated into piles and sending just one cover letter and resume might mean that you’re only considered for one position.
- If you’re e-mailing your resume, paste your cover letter into the body of your e-mail rather than as an attachment; the fewer documents to keep track of the better.
- When it comes to addressing your cover letter, always follow the employer’s advertised instructions.
- Don’t use your cover letter to explain reasons for leaving your previous job; save that for the interview.
- Never send a photocopied cover letter or a form letter. Ever.
- Avoid putting a salary history in your cover letter, unless the employer specifically asks for it.