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Resume Tip: Smart Cover Letters

AUTHOR:      Melinda Freels, SPHR
PUBLISHED:  March 3, 2005

In today?s high-tech world, most resumes are submitted online. Because email tends to be impersonal and is often considered a short cut, many job seekers neglect to utilize an effective marketing tool ? the cover letter. HUGE MISTAKE!

The well-written cover letter can make the difference whether or not your resume is even opened and reviewed. Here are some tips for writing an effective letter that can help you get your foot in the door:

Address your cover letter to the hiring manager and spell the name correctly. ?To Whom it May Concern? should be used only as a last resort, and only when a name is not available. If the job posting does not provide a contact name, try obtaining a name or phone number from the corporate website.

Here?s another tip: while a phone call to the Staffing Department will likely go straight to voice mail, a short conversation with a company operator or a receptionist can generate a wealth of information!

Format your letter formally, just as you would for a paper copy. Proofread it twice.

Start with an attention-grabbing, but not gimmicky, first sentence. A strong statement that makes you stand out from other applicants should be utilized in both the body of the letter and the subject line of the email. Not all recruiters thoroughly read cover letters, but most look for one at least one ?That?s It? sentence.

Do not write a dissertation. A clear, focused and concise message is best. Remember, recruiters are bombarded with resumes and speed through their emails looking for particular verbiage that encourages them to actually open your resume.

Reference your past accomplishments, but also talk about the future. Give the specific reason that you are applying for this particular job.

State exactly what you can do for the employer with a bold, confident voice. For example, if you have proven successes in an area that represents a challenge for the company, explain exactly how your skills and abilities will produce the desired results.

Incorporate enthusiasm and passion into your message, but be sincere.

Request a specific action that you want the employer to take, such as asking for a response to your inquiry.

Conclude your cover letter with the assumption that you?ll be called for an interview.

By creating and utilizing a cover letter template, you can easily customize it for each job to which you apply. Taking an extra 5 to 10 minutes to personalize each letter may seem redundant, but this may be your one opportunity to ensure that your email will not be discarded before your resume is even scanned.

Hiring decisions are based on competencies. However, the challenge is communicating your skills, abilities, education and experience to the right person at the right time. By effectively marketing yourself and leveraging ALL available tools, including a great cover letter, your chances of success will improve tremendously.

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