Cover Letter Tips

What exactly is a cover letter

Rule for an effective cover letter

The first rule of cover letters

The second rule of cover letters
The third rule of cover letters
Cover Letter Tips

What exactly is a cover letter ?

If you can think of your job search resume as the “dinner” of the job search meal, then your Cover Letter is your résumé's “appetizer.” A cover letter’s primary purpose is to act as an employer’s introduction to your resume. Put simply, it is a brief outline of your career objectives, a summary of your previous work experience, and a list of some notable career highlights. This letter is all about who you are and what you do. The idea is to make this introductory top sheet interesting and so well written that, after reading it, the employer’s interest will be piqued enough to go on to read your resume.

It is always a good idea to send a cover letter with your resume — regardless of whether the employer requests one. It is proper business etiquette to send one, and it affords you another opportunity to sell yourself in addition to your resume. The main purpose of resume cover letters is to tailor your application to a specific job. Your resume acts as a general advertisement about yourself and the cover letter explains why your skills and work experience are applicable to the specific job. The resume cover letter also gives you an opportunity to show your personality, so use it.

If at all possible, you should address your resume cover letter to a specific individual within the company. Otherwise, your resume is more likely to get lost in the shuffle. Conduct a little research about the company or call them and ask who to send it to if a contact name is not overtly supplied.

In the standard resume cover letter format, the introduction should clearly state what position you are applying for. This should not only be the focus of the opening paragraph, but it should also be the focus of the opening sentence. One sentence should be enough for the opening paragraph of your resume cover letter, but you may want to consider using an additional sentence to mention the name of a personal contact within the company who recommended the job to you or to briefly mention your qualifications for the job.

The body of your resume cover letter should contain your sales pitch. Use several sentences to mention the specific job skills and accomplishments that make you the ideal candidate for the open position. Elaborate by using brief examples to explain why your unique job skills make you the right person for the job. Don't painstakingly list all your wonderful qualities; just stick to the qualities that are relevant to the open position.

Generally, a well written cover letter should provide answers to what the employers want to know:

  • Are you the kind of person they are looking for?
  • Do you have the relevant education, work experience and skills?
  • Can you handle the work demands, based on the job description?
  • Have you shown a commitment to this particular field of interest?
  • How well can you communicate with others?
  • Are you a team player?
  • Have you any leadership qualities?

Rule for an effective cover letter:

  • The first rule of cover letters: Never use a generic cover letter with only: "To Whom It May Concern." With tons of work on your desk, would you be interested in such a mass mailing? You would probably consider it junk mail, right? You would be much more likely to read a letter that was directed to you personally and so would human resources professionals.
  • The second rule: Every résumé sent by mail or fax needs a personalized cover letter even if the advertisement didn't request a cover letter.
  • The third rule: Résumés sent by e-mail don't need a cover letter. Use only a quick paragraph with three to five sentences telling your reader where you heard about the position and why your qualifications are a perfect fit for the position's requirements. E-mail is intended to be short, sweet, and to the point.
The Cover Letter is for anyone who needs an effective document that introduces you and makes potential employers want to read your resume. Most resumes should be sent with a cover letter. Why? The answer is that most hiring authorities expect a clear, complete, concise cover letter that provides:
  • The reasons why you are sending your resume.
  • An introduction that includes your strengths and skills together with the job that you are targeting.
  • The highlights of your background and experience as these relate to the job that you are targeting.
  • The reasons why you are specifically qualified for the particular job that has been advertised (if you are answering a newspaper or online advertisement).
  • The reasons why this particular hiring manager should take the time to look at your resume and put you in line for any openings that are a good match for your background, skills and abilities.
Instruction to follow:
  • Keep your letter to one side of good quality, A4, plain, white paper and use black ink.
  • Unless a handwritten letter is requested, word processed is best - it looks more professional.
  • Use a clear, readable font - Times New Roman, Helvetica and Arial are good choices.
  • If a handwritten letter is requested, make sure it's clear, neat and smudge-free.
  • Aim for no more than three or four paragraphs and keep sentences short.
  • Make sure you've got good, wide margins and put two line spaces between each paragraph to make it look neater.
  • Make sure your letter has both your address and the prospective employer's address at the top.
  • If known, address the letter to a named person, i.e. the one who advertised the vacancy. If no particular name was mentioned, 'Madam/Sir'.
If the letter is addressed to a named person, end it with 'yours sincerely'. If not, use 'yours faithfully'.

After this, don't forget your signature.

In the conclusion of the resume cover letter, state your desire to meet with the company recruiter or hiring manager in person. To facilitate this, provide your preferred contact method and invite the employer to contact you at anytime to set up the interview. Close the paragraph by thanking the employer for considering your application.

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