Once you've written a polished resume that's sure to impress potential employers, you should focus on your cover letter. Too many people underestimate the importance of this vital component to their resume. Be sure to take full advantage of the opportunity the cover letter presents to really sell yourself to potential employers.
Following are 4 tips to help you write a great cover letter:
1) Be Specific and Demonstrate Knowledge
Employers read many resumes and cover letters, especially for prime positions. Yours should specifically address the position you hope to land an interview for, and explain how your skills and experience qualify you for that job. Don't send "mass mail," all-purpose types of resumes and cover letters - these will probably end up in the recycle bin.
2) Address the Letter to the Person Who Will Be Reading It
Avoid "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern" whenever possible. Even better, show that you are familiar with the company. Reference a recent merger, new product line, or other noteworthy event as evidence that you know about the company, follow its success, and would be a valuable part of their team.
3) Play Up the Positives; Downplay the Negatives
Let's say you are a recent college graduate without a lot of job experience. Describe how your activities and experiences in school helped prepare you for your career. Or, suppose you have time gaps in your employment. I encourage clients to not call great attention to this; if you focus on it and make it into an issue, it will become an issue for them. However, if you feel you do need to explain the time gap up front, use your cover letter to describe why there are gaps, and put a positive spin on it if possible (i.e., "Between March 2006 and August 2006 I traveled abroad and studied Spanish...").
4) Neatness and Professionalism Counts
Proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling are important in a professional cover letter. Print your resume and cover letter on matching, plain stationery or parchment paper if you have it. Sure you may have a fondness for cats, but a potential employer may find your cute feline letterhead "a bit too casual" for the workplace! I suggest hiring a professional resume writer to help you with your cover letter. There is a reason they are the experts in their field - they know what they're doing. A professional resume writer will know how to present you in the best light for the position you are seeking. (For recommended resume writers, feel free to visit my blog in the About the Author section below.)
Don't miss out on the opportunity the cover letter provides you with to stand out from the crowd of other applicants. A resume is useless to an employer if he or she can't figure out what type of job you're looking for. A great cover letter will explain what you seek, highlight why you are perfect for the job, and bring personality and voice to your resume.
Copyright 2006 Hallie Crawford, Authentically Speaking. All rights reserved.
Want free tips, tools and expert advice on finding a career you're passionate about? Visit Certified Career Coach Hallie Crawford. Bookmark her career tips blog for recommendations on resume writers, online career tests and more career resources.