Cover Letters Get the Interview

We've all had the experience of answering an ad for a job that seemed perfect for us, only to wait and wait and-if we were lucky-get a rejection letter. I concluded that my high interview-to-resume ratio came from my spending a lot of time on cover letters.

The cover letter is the place where you can set yourself apart and make the employer notice you. Resumes can't do that. In fact, an unusual resume is as likely as not to turn readers off. If you deviate from a standard pattern, they think you're trying to hide something. Resumes are like socks and cover letters are like shoes. You see a few novelty socks, but generally people only notice socks if they're dirty or don't match or have holes. They notice good looking shoes.

Cover letters are where you talk about how perfect you are for the job. They're particularly important if you don't meet all of the requirements. You can say, "While I don't have a degree in sports management, I think my three years as manager of the pennant-winning Salem Spotted Owls have given me a unique perspective on front office responsibilities." Throw in something here that shows you've done your homework on the organization: "You've done an incredible job with Jocko Jakes and Kitty Katz, and I'd like to be there to help you with more such successes."

But, I hear you cry, resumes are scanned into databases or posted on job boards and there's no room for creativity. On the contrary, that's exactly why you need a cover letter. If your resume isn't picked off the job board, you need to contact the employers yourself. And if you were an employer using a job board, which applicant would interest you more-one who posts a one-size-fits-all resume or one who makes a special effort to contact you?

If you suspect your resume will land in a corporate database-indeed, in any situation where you're asked to write to HR instead of to the hiring manager-the cover letter can be your vehicle for an end run. You want to make sure the hiring manager knows you're there. You can often find his or her name on the company's web site, or put in a friendly call to the receptionist and ask who's in charge of yogurt recipe development. If worse comes to worst, send your resume and your brilliant letter ("my prune rhubarb yogurt is a staple at the world-famous Snuffy's Snacks") to the vice president for dairy foods. When in doubt, go for the VP over the director and the director over the manager. Say that you've submitted your resume to HR but since he or she makes the decisions, you wanted him or her to know the great news about you right away. Just kidding.

The cover letter doesn't have to be a letter. Real letters on a real letterhead that matches the resume make a good impression and will probably get the manager's attention. But e-mails are sure to get there, get there faster and are easier not only to send but to reply to. In a high tech environment they may be the only forms of communication that people read. If you send an e-mail, though, there should be only one attachment: the resume. The cover letter should be the body of the message. People faced with two attachments to open may be tempted to ignore them both.

Send a letter or e-mail to HR, too. Recruiters have boring days. If your fascinating letter gets their attention, they'll forgive you for having only two years of experience when they asked for five.

If you're comfortable with humor, use it. It's especially good for deflecting questions you don't want to answer, e.g., "My salary requirements are modest, since I'm willing to forego a few lobster dinners and defer the purchase of that Porsche if I can work at your exciting company." Lines like that can wake up bored recruiters. I was once called for an interview after using such a line. The manager said, "We don't think you're exactly what we're looking for, but I just had to meet the person who wrote that letter." Then that manager recommended me to a colleague who had an opening that was a better fit.

Don'ts: Don't tell them what you think they need. Letters starting, "As you move into the new millennium, you'll need people of vision" were popular in the nineties and didn't make favorable impressions. Don't tell them what you need, either. "I've had a passion for yogurt since I was five" is a yawner. "My passion for yogurt led me to develop kiwi grape as a child, and I've kept up with the changing technology since, so I feel I can hit the ground running at your company" tells them why they should hire you.

Don't be afraid to use the word "I." A generation of high school teachers indoctrinated people with the idea that sentences like "Your opening is appealing because it can lead to great opportunity" were preferable to the first person singular. Wrong. Start every sentence with "I" if you want. The letter is about you.

Have fun. If nothing else, devising a grabber of a cover letter can brighten up the dull chore of answering ads. And if it wakes you up, think what it'll do for employers.

Article provided by Homesteader.

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Contrary to popular belief, writing cover letters is not a lost art. Even if you're submitting a resume by e-mail or to a job bank, a good cover letter is still the key to getting an interview.

If the process of writing great cover letters intimidates you, you'll be happy to learn these simple secrets to amazing cover letters.

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If you aren't sure how to write a cover letter for e-mail, relax because you aren't alone. E-mails may be more casual in tone, but these cover letters are still similar to hard copy cover letters.

When you apply for a job, the cover letter isn't even read, right? Unless you're applying for a job as a writer, doesn't the cover letter just restate what is on your resume? The answer to both of these questions is an emphatic "no."

In this day of fast-paced, right-to-the-point communication, more and more job seekers ask if they still need to send a cover letter. Indeed, it would seem at this point that one more piece of correspondence to go through would only be unnecessary clutter for a hiring manager.

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