Most employers still see the use of a cover letter with a resume as fundamental, as it allows the reviewer to get a first glimpse of you and decide whether to continue on to your resume. Taking the time to construct one well gives you a better shot of being taken seriously by the person who gets your application.
Review the contents of your resume.
Cover letters are not intended to duplicate what you have on your resume. Nevertheless, they have to get the reader’s attention and introduce them to the fact you’re applying for a job. By reviewing the resume contents–which, remember, should be tailored to the company you’re applying to–you can focus yourself and summarize why the reviewer should take a look at the resume in the first place.
Note contact information.
At the very top of the cover letter, left justified, include your name, address and other contact information such as your phone number and email address. Try to avoid an unprofessional email address here if you can, such as [email protected] Skip a line and place the name and contact information for the company.
Write your salutation.
Some companies don’t provide the name of a contact person when they post jobs. If this is the case for you, your first choice is to use a very general salutation, such as “Dear Hiring Manager.” Some people think that this is simply a waste of space, however, and advise that you don’t use a salutation at all unless you can be specific. If you can use a name, be formal, such as “Dear Mr. Smith” instead of “Dear John.” Standard business format requires a colon after the greeting. Skip a line and you’re ready to start the first paragraph.
Clarify your intent.
In the first paragraph of your cover letter, explain why you are writing. Say where, when or how you heard about the available job, and then come right out and say you would like to apply.
Get specific about yourself.
The second paragraph is where you say what you have to offer the employer. Summarize, but do not repeat, what the reviewer will see on the resume, highlighting what skills, experience or other qualifications makes you a great fit for what the company is looking for. Think of this as a snapshot that generates interest and paints a picture of who you are and what you can do.
Thank the reviewer and provide contact directions.
Once you’ve explained what you can bring to the table, clarify that you have attached or enclosed your current resume for their convenience. Express your gratitude to the reviewer for taking the time to read your letter. Then very politely invite the reviewer to get in touch with you, redirecting them to the contact information in your header. A good, simple way to end this paragraph is to say that you look forward to his or her response.
Write your closing.
Just as your letter ideally starts with a formal greeting, it should close formally, too. Options such as “Yours truly,” or “Sincerely,” are usable, but because they are fairly generic, it’s better to try to come up with something a little more personal. For instance, you might say “Thanking you in advance for your consideration” or “In appreciation of this application opportunity.” After the closing, skip a few lines and type your name. Hand write your name above the typed version once you’ve printed the document.
More Quick Tips
These days, more and more companies are getting resumes through email and other online services. When you need to submit this way, either follow the strict guidelines given for the application system or write a subject line that makes your name and intent clear. Remember to keep the subject line brief, as most email clients will cut off anything longer than 60 characters or so. For instance, write “John Smith–IT Coordinator Application” not “John Smith–Application for IT Coordinator Position at Company Y, City Z Branch.”
As you write your letter, follow the same basic formatting, such as margins and font, that you did with the resume so there is cohesion between the two documents. Do your best to stay to a single page. Be ruthless in your proofreading!
Approached with a little finesse and organization, writing a cover letter for a resume can be a fairly easy task. Ask you construct yours, the golden rule is to think of it like a sales pitch–you need to sell yourself not just with what you can do, but also with clarity, brevity and your tone of professionalism.
By Wanda Marie Thibodeaux