Everyone knows about the resume, but when was the last time you gave some thought to your cover letter?
What is a Cover Letter?
Resumes are very formal, factual, and straight-to-the-point. This is great if you are personally handing your resume to a potential employer after a brief conversation with them. However, if your resume is the first point of contact, it might not be enough. This is where the cover letter comes in.
The cover letter is another first impression. It allows you to introduce yourself and add some personality to what would otherwise be a very boring read.
There will be plenty of candidates with superb resumes. The cover letter is your chance to explain why your resume should move to the top of the pile.
Like your resume, cover letters should be brief. Absolutely no more than one page in length, but usually a few simple paragraphs will do the trick.
So what should a cover letter include?
This should be a no-brainer, but here it is. The employer needs to know how to contact you for an interview or job offer. Since you really want this job you should give them as many options as possible. Include your full name, address, phone number(s), email address, and even your LinkedIn profile.
If possible you should also include as much contact information as you have for the employer just below your own contact info. Try to mimic the personal information you just provided.
Why are You Contacting the Employer?
There are actually a number of reasons to send out a cover letter and resume, so you need to let the recipient know why you are contacting them.
- Are you replying to a job posting you saw?
- Are you inquiring about future job openings?
- Are you just looking to expand your network?
What Do You Have to Offer?
This section is the real meat and potatoes of the cover letter. In this section you really want to let loose and show the employer why you are the best candidate for the job. Show them what skills you have and explain how they fit the job or company you’re interested in.
This section may span more than one paragraph. If you’re outlining many skills it may be okay to use a new paragraph for each skill. Two or three sentence paragraphs are a lot easier to read through than one large block of text.
Thank You and Follow Up
Your final paragraph should include a brief thank you and let the employer know how or when you plan to follow up on this initial contact. If you set a specific date or time, be sure that you follow through with it.
Finally, as this is a business transaction, you want to keep the signature very formal. “Sincerely” is always a solid option.
Then, even though you probably typed up your cover letter, be sure to sign your cover letter by hand. It’s classy and professional. It’s a good way to seal the deal.