Far too many people underestimate the importance of resume cover letters. In a sense, a well written cover letter works like an agent on your behalf. It tosses a sales pitch for you to the employer, explaining why you should be at the top of the list for interview calls. Taking the time to write a cover letter tells the employer you are willing to go above and beyond; not just simply slap a resume in an envelope and mail it.
Not All Resume Cover Letters Are Created Equal
No two resume cover letters should ever be the same; each one should be uniquely tailored to the job for which you are applying. A generic cover letter is insulting to an employer and will quickly find its way into the trashcan. When writing cover letters keep the following tips in mind:
Address resume cover letters to an actual entity, not just a generic "To Whom it May Concern" or "Personnel Director." If you are not sure who to address, find out and then make sure you spell their name correctly. Do not just assume.
State who referred you or how you found out about the job opening. "Linda McCain mentioned that you might be hiring a new computer programmer soon." or "I learned about your opening for a Sales Associate from your posting in the San Francisco Sun and would like to discuss a few ways I can contribute to your team."
Resume cover letters should discuss how you can help the employer, not about why you need the job. The employer has posted a job opening because they need that position filled and they need the best candidate to fill it. Convince them why you are that person.
Make Yourself Stand Out from the Crowd
Demonstrate you know something about who the employer is and what they do. If you don't know anything about the company, find out what products or services the company offers, their competitors; any recent or upcoming changes. Employers will be impressed with your knowledge, especially if their company services a specialty niche that isn't well known.
Do not discuss salary requirements in resume cover letters. If the job posting requests that you respond with salary information, simply state in your cover letter "I would be pleased to discuss my salary history in an interview." Then quickly move on to what you can offer them in terms of your talent and skills.
Give an exact date when you will follow-up to discuss an interview. Don't depend on the employer to follow-up with you.
Keep it Short and to the Point
Do not say 'enclosed please find my resume.' This wastes valuable space in resume cover letters you can devote to highlighting why you are perfect for the job.
State what you need to, but don't draw it out. Keep resume cover letters to one page, preferably about four short paragraphs.
Proofread your resume cover letters and then ask someone else to proofread as well. Don't eliminate yourself from the candidates called for an interview because of a simple typo or mis-spelled word. Don't rely on your computer's spell check. It does not always catch everything.
Make sure your letter is neat. If at all possible, spend a little extra and print it on nice, professional paper. Make sure there are no wrinkles, folds or smudges.
Following a few simple rules can help your resume cover letters stand out from all the rest and get you in the door for an interview and on your way to that great new job!
by Roger G Clark
Roger G Clark has over 25 years experience in career development & recruitment at top management level through senior positions he has held with major international companies.
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