Cover letters serve a very important function when applying for a job. A resume tells an employer the applicant can do the job; while the cover letter tells them that they want the job. A resume is a history of what the person has in the way of skills, experience, and education. The cover letter is a picture of what an applicant can do for a company. It is also an opportunity to show interest in the specific job or to work for a specific company. It allows a person to show some personality, other than the bullet points of a resume.

Many executives think the cover letter is a valuable resource in the hiring process. Following are tips to keep in mind when constructing a cover letter:

  •  Make the information relevant to the job and to the employer.
  •  Do research and address the letter to a specific hiring authority whenever possible.
  •  The cover letter should be short, no more than ½ to ¾ of a page and in 3-4 paragraphs at most.
  •  Try to make some kind of connection as to why you feel you would be the best candidate for the job.
  •  Be sure the first line grabs the interviewer’s attention, as most read a cover letter for less than 10 seconds before making a judgment about you.
  •  Use a standard business letter format. In the majority of cases, now is not the time to showcase your unique layout abilities.
  •  It is good manners to thank the reader for their time and consideration for reading your resume.
  •  You should not have to be reminded, but do proofread your cover letter! Don’t be immediately knocked out of the running by sending a cover letter full of typos and mistakes.
  • Sign your cover letter if you are sending a paper copy. Use black or blue ink. If you are emailing the document, a signature is not required.
As with your resume, keep your cover letter to the point, professional, and specific. Call the company, explain the position you are applying for, and ask for a contact person or a department name, at the least. Customize it for the employer and let them know exactly why you are contacting them. Many companies request an e-mail of your cover letter and resume. In this case, plain text and standard formatting will be best. You can write your letter in a word processing program, copy it and then paste it directly into the body of your message. It is not recommended to include either the cover letter or resume as attachments because employers will not likely be willing to open documents from unknown sources.
In addition to introducing yourself to the company, you are also letting them know how you can help them. Make sure you do not overdo the “I” pronoun. It is very unappealing to look at a cover letter and see every sentence beginning with “I”. Try this simple trick: you (the hiring authority) need (the position). I (the applicant) have/provide/know/have success in _______. Here are a few specific components to keep in mind when designing your letter: Paragraph 1 – Use this to define where the knowledge of a specific position was learned and the name of the person who works for the organization (if known). In addition, you should include the reasons for applying for the position and/or why it would be a great fit. Paragraph 2 – Mention any situation or information that will show an understanding of the position and the possession of skills to do the job. Maybe a short example of your involvement in any activities or assignments that demonstrate specific skills, the company’s stated values and/or its organizational mission. Industry and company language found in the research should be used when possible. Paragraph 3 – State why you want to work for the company. Make a statement that is straight forward and to the point. This should include how much you would appreciate the opportunity to work for the organization and how their goals and values fall right into line with their company vision. Briefly mention a follow up to find out where the company is in the hiring process and your hope to speak with them in the near future.
There are no hard and fast rules about what to say when writing cover letters. It needs to be very professional, completely free of errors and utilize the appropriate grammar. It is surprising how much a company can learn from a short letter. Make it shine, so the company will want to talk to you, even if the resume is not the one on the top of the list.
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