Cover Letters

The cover letter is of vital importance to your resume. It’s what employers see first – it’s your first chance to grab their attention; it’s also your first chance to lose their attention. For this reason you should treat your cover letter with as much care and consideration as you do your resume.

Addressing your cover letter

Address the cover letter to the individual in charge of hiring. If this information is not readily available in the job ad or on their web site, it is acceptable to address it to “Human Resources Manager” or “Hiring Manager.”

Tone and style

Your cover letter should be written in a more casual, conversational style than your resume. This does not mean it is acceptable to use improper grammar – in fact, you should be doubly cautious not to make any mistakes, as the cover letter is the first impression you will make. Use it as an opportunity to show off your writing skills.

You should avoid the rigid sentence form you use on your resume; this is a letter, designed to grab the attention of the employer without going into nearly as much detail as your resume.

Customizing your cover letter

You must take the time to customize the cover letter of each resume. This is the place – not the resume itself – where you should show an interest in the particular company. Let the employer know you went to the effort to find out something about them, what they do, and how your skills would compliment the company.

What to say

Your cover letter should answer the following questions:

  1. Why are you writing? Did you see their help wanted ad in the newspaper? Which job, specifically?
  2. Who are you? Tell a little about yourself and why you are interested in the position.
  3. Why should they consider you? Briefly give an overview of the skills you possess that they could benefit from.
  4. Answer any questions/requirements that were in the help wanted ad – number of years experience, salary requirements, etc.

What not to say

You should avoid the following pitfalls on your cover letter:

  1. Salary requirements. You should be careful not to paint yourself into a corner. If you say you require a low salary, you’ll hurt your ability to negotiate later on; if your salary requirement is on the high end, they may not even look at your resume. Don’t specify an exact number unless required – try to give a range from the lowest you would consider to the most you think you could possibly get. Let them know that your requirements depend on the job responsibilities and duties.
  2. Copying information from your resume. Don’t copy portions of your resume into your cover letter. If your resume is written in an appropriate form and tone, it shouldn’t read as conversationally as your cover letter. Only include the most relevant information on your cover letter – don’t talk about specific jobs you’ve had, but mention that you have experience doing the things this position requires.

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