Time and time again, clients confirm my belief that cover letter writing is perhaps the least enjoyed job search activity. While many debate the usefulness of the cover letter, let me make one point very clear: the most commonly made mistake in resume submissions is not including a copy of your cover letter.
Now, if you are emailing your resume, the cover letter can be included in the body of the email, or attached as a separate document. I prefer the latter, with a brief email note to say you are writing to apply to Job X and your application is attached. Omitting a cover letter from your job application can appear unprofessional to your potential employer; having a well-written, personalized cover letter allows the employer to get an insight into who you are, how you communicate, and how you present yourself as a professional.
Here are some great tips on composing a winning cover letter to accompany your resume:
- Start by addressing the letter to the appropriate person. Don’t make the mistake of not taking the time to address their cover letter to the appropriate person, such as the recruiter or the hiring manager. If the job description does not include a person as a contact, look it up. Go to LinkedIn or the company website to find the HR Manager, Team Leader, or another appropriate contact. Or, take a hint from the text and address the letter to the team listed as the contact. Using generic lines, such as “To whom it may concern” just demonstrates you haven’t taken the time to do any research.
- Know the goal of your cover letter, then express it clearly and concisely. Above all else, highlight the qualifications that make you a perfect candidate for the job. If you don’t address the requirements the employer has listed in the job posting, you have wasted everyone’s time. Customize the letter, which includes indicating the job title in the cover letter. Generic statements, or statements indicating that you are interested in any open position with the company, come across as unprofessional and unprepared.
- Include specific examples from past experience to demonstrate your qualifications and the kind of benefit you can bring. If they ask for communication skills, you can’t just say you have them and move to the next item on the list. Prove it. “Demonstrated excellent communication skills writing and presenting client reports on behalf of ABC Corp.” You do want to briefly address why you want to work with the company, but the reality is they are more interested in knowing why they would want you working for them.
- Whenever possible, close the cover letter by indicating to your potential employer when and how you intend to follow up on your application. “I will call/email your office/HR department next week to follow-up.” This confirms your interest in the position, and your professional etiquette. (Note, you must follow up when and how you indicated on the cover letter.) In some situations, particularly some government departments or large institutions, following up is difficult. Try to find a number online, but if not, close with a line that keenly indicates your interest, restates your contact details, and invites them to contact you. “I look forward to meeting with you to further discuss how my qualifications can meet your needs. I can be reached at (613) 455-5555 or by email at email@example.com, and hope to hear from you soon.”
- You knew I was going to say it… Proofread. Again. And then again. Errors and misspellings leave a poor impression on the reader.
Do you love or hate the process of cover letter writing? Job seekers interested in a free review of their resume and cover letter can contact me through my website, www.bestfootforward.co, or by sending their documents to firstname.lastname@example.org, as an e-mail attachment. I will provide a complimentary review along with a quote for having the documents professionally rewritten.