Writing Cover Letters that Lead to Interviews

There is an art to writing cover letters. Many otherwise bright people spend an inordinate amount of time constructing the Perfect Resume. Then they send it off with an enclosed-please-find cover letter or, worse, with none at all. That's like spending more time shopping for socks than for shoes. Socks just have to match and not have holes. Shoes are what people notice.

Put another way, a resume is a marketing brochure. The cover letter is a sales pitch.

The Myths of Cover Letters
No one sends letters any more. They send e-mails.
It's good news when you can e-mail your resume, because your cover letter can be an e-mail with the resume as the attachment. You won't have to select letterhead for it, start it with the recipient's name and street address, photocopy it, figure out which way to put the envelope in the printer to get the address right or try to remember whether those stamps in the drawer with the American flag but no amount on them are worth 37 cents or 42 cents.

Do make your cover letter an e-mail message. Don't attach it as a word-processing document. You'll be attaching your resume, and one attachment is enough for any message. If you want to edit your cover letter before you send it, compose it in a word-processing program and then paste it into your e-mail.

If you do snail-mail your cover letter, it should be on letterhead that matches your resume and should be done in business-letter style. Same if you fax it. Don't just type your address in the right-hand corner the way you were taught in sixth grade, when people were still using typewriters. Copy the top of your resume onto a blank page.

You can't send a cover letter to a resume bank.
Yes, you can. Most of them make room for cover letters.

Resumes don't get read. They get scanned into databases.
Resumes that are sent to HR at box numbers and mail stops may get scanned into databases, but there's no law against trying to get them read by a human being, which is more likely to happen if they have a dynamite cover letter attached.

To increase your chances that the cover letter will be read, send a copy to the person who will be making the hiring decision-the hiring manager. If you don't know who that person is, figure out what title is likely to manage your job (IT director, controller, etc.) and find out the name of the person who holds it. You can usually do this by calling the receptionist. You can be very specific; i.e., "Who's in charge of enterprise marketing?" or you can aim for the VP of marketing and trust that your letter will be passed down. If the receptionist for some reason isn't forthcoming, you can probably get clues on the company's Web site.

What to Say
The resume says you're an experienced food chemist. The cover letter can explain that although you only have two years of food chemistry experience instead of the five that the ad specified, you've been a sous-chef at three of the top-ten restaurants in your state. It can tell your prospective boss that even though your degree was in film instead of chemistry, you concentrated on food commercials. It can, and should, tell the reader why you're uniquely qualified for the job.

Use it to highlight things in your resume that you think will particularly interest them, such as awards you've won or sales you've increased or money you've saved. That way you'll get your message across if they're too bored by resumes to read yours carefully.

If you feel comfortable with humor, use it; it gets attention, which is what you want. Otherwise, keep it simple. Tell them what job you want, where you heard about it, why you're qualified for it and why you think you'll be good at it and/or will fit into the company. If you're answering an ad, respond to every point in it, including your lack of a chemistry degree. If it asks for salary history that you don't want to give, say you'll be happy to discuss it in an interview but you're sure the salary will be right for you even though you used to make more or less because the job is such a perfect fit.

What Not to Say
Don't tell them what they need; e.g., "Your company needs people with vision." It's none of your business until you start working there, and you won't if they think you've got attitude.

Don't say, "I've wanted to manage a telemarketing group since I was12." Employers don't care about your needs, they care about their own. Tell them that ever since you won the "most helpful" award in middle school, you've followed the trends in telemarketing techniques and have put in time on the phones, so you know you can hit the ground running.

Don't be afraid of using the first person. Some people go through hoops to avoid the word "I" and wind up with sentences like, "As a seasoned telemarketer, managing your group would be ideal." The letter is about you. Use "I" all you want.

Don't throw in extraneous information, like the reason you want to leave your present job. Enquiring minds who want to know will call you for an interview and ask you then.

Above all, don't make your cover letter into a form letter and recopy it. It's so easy to forget to change "I know Galactic offers the best opportunities for food chemists" to "I know Cosmic offers the best opportunities for telemarketing managers." Besides, the best way to make it sound personal is to write it that way. That's what will save your resume from the scanner.

Article provided by Homesteader

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

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.

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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.

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.

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