Writing a Must-Read Cover Letter
If you want to land an interview, you'll need more than a perfectly polished resume, you'll also need a perfectly polished cover letter.
A cover letter does more than provide a mere introduction, it gives the employer an opportunity to see why you are the right candidate for the job-before she even takes a look at your resume! By taking the time to customize a cover letter to each job opportunity, you can almost guarantee that your resume will get a good look instead of landing a permanent home in the circular file-or worse, the recycling bin.
Put yourself in the employer's shoes for a moment. You have stacks of resumes on your desk and only one position to fill. Because you are crunched for time, you'll need a quick way to review everyone's qualifications and reduce the pile to a handful of possible candidates. How will you do this?
By browsing each cover letter.
If a cover letter intrigues you, you'll then flip to the resume and give it a look before deciding which pile the resume belongs in.
WHY ARE YOU THE RIGHT CANDIDATE?
This is the burning question on employer's minds.
When you are writing a cover letter, let the employer know how you can benefit her company. Include a few career highlights and give a few examples of how your expertise will be a positive addition to the staff. Resumes often focus on past accomplishments and employment history. Although that is valuable information, the employer really wants to know what you can do for them. Give examples of how you plan on increasing profits, locating new customers or increasing productivity. Employers will be impressed that have spent time thinking about how to better their company before you even step through the door.
BREVITY IS BEST
You may feel compelled to rattle on about your employment history and recent accomplishments to stress your extensive experience. But, you don't want your cover letter to appear overwhelming. If you were presented with a page long document with tight margins and small text, would you be excited to dive in? Employers won't be either. Remember, your resume may be only 1 of 100. Make sure the important details jump out instead of burying them in blocks of text. Your cover letter is not intended to replicate all of the information in your resume.
Think of it as a teaser-if you grab their interest in the cover letter, you can guarantee that your resume will get a fair look.
In general, a cover letter can be accomplished in half a page. Depending on your situation, it may be shorter or longer, but make sure it never exceeds a page.
OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION
Since resumes don't explain potential resume problems, such as gaps in employment history, it is often acceptable to explain any discrepancies here. Keep it brief and don't get too personal. It's not a good idea to share too much information, and never, never bad-mouth a former employer. Regardless of the circumstances, this will almost definitely destroy your chances of an interview.
It probably goes without saying that your cover letter-and resume for that matter-should be polished and neatly printed on high quality paper. Make sure to proofread the letter to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Don't rely on spell check, which usually doesn't locate misuses of words such as "there" and "their" or "two" and "too." If spelling isn't your strong suit, have a word-savvy friend edit for you.
Neatness also includes addressing the letter to the correct person. Using the introduction "To whom it may concern," or "Human Resource Personnel" is inappropriate and looks lazy. Make a good impression by calling the company to find the correct person and his/her title. It will be worth the effort.
Writing an individualized cover letter is time-consuming and tedious, but it is worth all the effort. Take the time to write a sparkling letter and your soon your phone will be ringing with interested employers.
Lindsey Hadwin is the President of Pro Resume, an online resume writing service. For more information, go to http://www.proresumegroup.com
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