Cover Letter Tips
A cover letter is the most important piece of your resume package. Always send a cover letter unless the employer states otherwise. The cover letter is used to draw the employer's attention. If you have spent hours on your resume it deserves a chance, right? With the high number of applications that employers receive most go through a scanning process. If the cover letter does not grab the employer's attention, there is a good chance they will not continue on to read your resume.
Make sure the cover letter is personalized. Form letters are easy to pick out and do not set applicants apart from others that are applying for the same position. Make sure the letter is addressed to a specific individual. Dear Sir or Madam letters will most likely not make it to the key decision maker. Word-processed letters can get applicants into trouble if necessary changes are not made. No one wants to read that you would like to work for his or her company's competitor.
Once the letter is addressed to a specific individual, it is time to start on the letter itself. Be specific and get to the point. Generally, a cover letter consists of 3 paragraphs. It is important not to waste space and the reader's time. The first paragraph should tell the employer how you found out about this position. If a current employee recommended that you apply this is a good time to state this. Make sure every sentence in the cover letter has something to do with explaining your interest in the company.
Do your homework. Knowing about the company's corporate culture can help determine the formality of the letter. Use terms and phrases that are meaningful to the employer. Tell them why you find the company attractive and leave it at that. Do not profess that you know more about the company than you do. Illustrate how you fill the company's needs. Do not repeat your resume; expand it. If you lack work experience, relate your accomplishments from a cooperative education experience or similar experience. Make connections between research and coursework and the hiring objectives of the employer. Avoid clichés; this is your chance to set yourself apart from other candidates. It is difficult to demonstrate your uniqueness if you sound like everyone else. Answer the question: "Why should I hire this person?" If you answer this question you do not leave the employer guessing.
Be proactive when writing your conclusion. Do not say, "I look forward to hearing from you," indicate what reaction you expect from the letter and how you will follow up. Make sure that contact information is very clear. Close the letter with sincerely. Make sure that the letter is signed; this helps distinguish it from a form letter. Make sure you proofread. Do not rely on spell check entirely. Refer to a dictionary with questions regarding word use and a style manual for questions regarding grammar. Make sure you have at least two people read over your cover letter. Mistakes in a cover letter say a lot about the person writing the letter and lessen the chance that the employer will read the attached resume.
Package your resume and cover letter neatly. Pay attention to spacing and format. If you use the same paper stock and fonts for your resume and cover letter it will create a more professional look. A well written and presented cover letter increases the chances of getting your resume read and therefore increases your chances of getting a job.
Contributed by: Shannon Broderick
Public Relations Associate, CPAmerica International, Inc.