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."
A cover letter is crucial because it can highlight what doesn't fit on your resume, such as day-to-day tasks that can't be summed up in numbers. The tone of your letter can also shape how the employer views you. What you say and how you say it will give the employer a hint of what you might be like in a one-on-one interview. For that reason, these tips can help you write a cover letter that will make you shine:
1. Never send a generic cover letter. Your letter must match your experience to the job skills required. Read the job posting carefully, and read between the lines to see how your experience might fit in. Your first paragraph offers an introduction, but the body paragraphs should cover how your skills would fit in with the company.
2. Be specific. If you worked on a project that applies to the needs of the company at your last job, in school or while volunteering, describe exactly what you did to help make the project successful. Did you train freelancers? Did you manage the budget for the school paper? Did you organize a canned food drive? Everyone else competing with you will say he is a hard worker, but you can prove you are a hard worker with details.
3. Showcase what you know about the company. A successful cover letter isn't all about you. It is also about the company to which you apply. Do your research and find out exactly what the company does. If you have used their product in the past, say so. If you worked for one of their competitors, describe how familiar you are with the day-to-day tasks at the company.
4. Keep it short. Whoever is reading your resume will be busy, and they won't read your letter multiple times. The longer the letter, the more of a hassle it will be to read it. Keep the important material at the top of the letter, and avoid going longer than three or four paragraphs. If you are going over a page or getting close to a full page, start editing ruthlessly.
5. Don't go into your life story. Resist the tendency to tell the employer all about why you are looking for a job. For example, you don't want to discuss the layoffs in your last company. A cover letter should focus on the here, the now and what you can do for the company offering the job. However, in some cases it is advisable to explain gaps in your resume, especially if you took a few years off to raise children or go back to school. Even so, be brief.
6. Stay positive. If you were laid off or even fired from your last job, strive for an optimistic tone in your letter. Think about all the opportunities open to you, and prove to a potential employer that you are the type of person who is always moving forward instead of obsessing over the past.
7. Set it aside before proofreading. Any editor will tell you that proofreading your own work is almost impossible. Since you spent so much time writing the document, the letters tend to blur together. Once you have written a draft, set aside the cover letter for a few hours, and then check it for typos. Since your head will be clearer, you are more likely to catch embarrassing errors.
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.
Cover letters are to accompany a resume when applying for a job. The purpose of the cover letter is to get an interview. So many people will spend forever perfecting the perfect resume. Then blow it all by submitting a lousy, second-rate cover letter.