Cover Letters

Cover Letter Handout.

Never underestimate the power of correspondence in your job search. Your application cover letter, in particular, is an important marketing tool which highlights your most attractive qualifications as a potential employee and, if well written, will lead the employer to your resume.

Keep it Short
The ideal cover letter is about half a page long, and never exceeds one page. A concise letter demonstrates that you are focused and have strong communication skills. Aim for two to four brief paragraphs.

State the Position
The recruiter who reads your letter may be hiring for several posts. While candidates who e-mail their resumes often include the job title in the subject line of their e-mails, if the recruiter prints a letter out before reading it, such information may be lost. Clearly state the job title in the first paragraph of the letter, preferably in the first sentence.

Explain Why You Want the Job
Candidates should always answer the question, Why do I want to do this work?. Ask yourself how the position fits into your overall career plans and what you find exciting about the particular sector. A genuine show of enthusiasm and knowledge will set you apart from those sending generic form letters.

Clearly Describe Ways You Will Contribute
After carefully reading the job description, write a paragraph outlining one or two specific examples of how your skills and experiences will fit the company's needs.

Match, But Don't Reiterate, Your Resume
This is one point many job seekers find tricky. You should never claim experience in your cover letter that isn't reflected on your resume. At the same time, your cover letter shouldn't simply restate your resume. When you explain the ways you will contribute, refer to an experience or skill on your resume to show how you will add value to the company.

Don't Say You're Not Qualified
Even if you think the position is out of your reach, your job is to convince the recruiter you are qualified. If the recruiter thinks you're unqualified, a confessional letter is not going to get you interview. Keep the letter positive by focusing on your transferable skills and unusual accomplishments.

Keep the Tone and Content Professional
Don't be a comedian, don't get really personal, and don't beg for the job.

Tell the Reader What You're Going to do Next
Too many job seekers never follow up after sending a resume. Clearly explain in your letter the manner in which you will follow up and when you will do so. If the job post lists a phone number, indicate you will call within a specified time to arrange an interview. If not, consider calling anyway, unless the post specifically requests "no calls." You may also consider a follow-up e-mail if you sent your resume electronically.

Proofread
Again. Using a spell checker is not enough. Many recruiters will dismiss even the most qualified candidate if there is one typo in cover letter or resume. Reread your letter two or three times, then give it to someone else who knows a thing or two about good writing. Even if your letter is free of typos, poor grammar also makes a bad impression.