Your Resume - Cover Letters

Cover LettersThe Cover Letter

How do you turn your cover letter into an effective partner for your resume? By using the very information the prospective employer has freely given you to your advantage - their employment ad.

Review the advertisement thoroughly, and identify both their stated and unstated needs. Then, match each of those needs with your qualifications. Make the recruiter's job easy: tell them, "this is what you need, this is how I'm qualified." Point for point. Don't wait for them to try and determine your appropriateness as a candidate - Tell them how and why you're their best fit.

Armed with the material for success - lots of strong content - you're ready to pull it all together into the cover letter. The format of any cover letter is fairly typical. What makes yours unique is the content. Just as your resume conveys a "first impression" to prospective employers, so too does the cover letter. Each must be equally well-organized and prepared with attention to detail.

The First Paragraph

In the very first paragraph of your letter, you should state what position you are applying for and how you learned about it. If you have any personal contacts in or with the company, you may want to mention them here. You should also state your general qualifications for the job. This paragraph should be brief, perhaps two or three sentences.

The Body of the Letter

The body of your letter should consist of one to three longer paragraphs in which you expand upon your qualifications for the position. This is where you turn the information gleaned from the employer's ad to your benefit. List each of the prospective employer's stated criteria, and match each one with relevant qualifications from those listed in your resume. Bullet points are appropriate here, because they'll draw the reader's eye right to your qualifications. There'll be no mystery why you're the best candidate!

In the concluding paragraph of your letter, you should request an interview (or some other response, if appropriate). State where and when you can be reached, and express your willingness to come to an interview or supply further information. Close by thanking your reader for his or her time and consideration.

Some Final Points

As with resumes, the same holds true for cover letters:

 Spelling and grammar errors are fatal. Prospective employers use your cover letter to evaluate your writing skills and attention to detail.

 Keep in mind that employers using resume scanning equipment will usually scan in cover letters as well. Follow the same advice given for resumes on formatting and including key words when you put together your cover letter.

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of the cover letter. In a recent survey of 150 executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies, 60 percent of the respondents said that when they screen applications, the cover letter is either as important as or more critical than the resume. Your cover letter really does matter.

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