A cover letter is a letter of introduction, a letter that a job seeker should never send his or her resume without. This letter is what tells the employer what type of job you’re interested in and in what way you are qualified for that position. Very few employers look at resumes that are not accompanied by a cover letter. The more dynamic and well written your letter is, the more likely the employer is to consider your application. It’s the most important part of your “sales package”, it is you.
A cover letter should be written in paragraph form, not in a list form or bulleted. Ideally there should be four paragraphs in the following format:
Opening Paragraph: Come straight to the point and don’t waste time with unnecessary pleasantries. Tell the employer what job you are applying for and how you learned about it. Say why you are different from the others, and how the employer can benefit by hiring you. In brief, the opening should capture the employer’s interest.
Paragraph 2: Give details of your professional and academic qualifications. Don’t just mention the duties and responsibilities of your previous jobs, but state your achievements and accomplishments, especially those which are related to the job you are seeking. If you do not have experience, then focus on your skills that are relevant to the job. Remember to use action verbs and tailor it to the job posting or ad.
Paragraph 3: Tell your employer why he should consider or hire you for the position. Do this by expanding on your qualifications and showing your knowledge of the company (do some research on the company before writing).
Final Paragraph: Express confidence (not arrogance) in getting the job by asking for an interview or meeting with the employer. Say that you would be following up after a specified time period. State where and when you can be reached.
While writing the above, remember these do’s and don’ts –
- Address the letter to a named individual. (Find out who would be looking at your resume.)
- Write an original letter. Not something that’s been copied from somewhere, or mass produced.
- Use simple and uncomplicated language, avoiding unnecessary words.
- Use action verbs.
- If responding to an ad or posting, tailor to the requirements of the job.
- Keep it brief. No more than a page and well under a full page. If you are emailing, then shorten it so it fits one screen.
- Be specific about how you can contribute to the company.
- Say where you can be reached.
- Your letter should answer the question “why should I be hired?”
- Use sexist salutation (e.g. Sir, or Gentlemen)
- Use clichés (e.g. enclosed is my resume)
- Repeat what’s in your resume. Your cover letter should only highlight the points relevant to the position.
- Send a letter with typos, misspellings, or wrong grammar.
- Forget to personally sign the letter.
- Expect the employer to take action first. You should act and request an interview or follow up.
In short, a cover letter should explain what your resume can’t. It should be a mirror of your personality, your attention to detail, your communication skills, your enthusiasm, and your intellect. Something that should wow the employer and make him say “Here’s the person I would like to hire”.
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