You must review the job requirements before preparing a cover letter. Job requirements are usually included in job postings and newspaper ads. You should read this information a couple of times to be sure that your skills and qualifications match what the job requires. It is a good sign when you find that your qualifications match most of the requirements. This means, you are a strong candidate for the position. Next, you should underline the primary responsibilities indicated in the job posting, and write down the strongest qualifications you possess to match what the job requires. This is what you want to highlight in your cover letter.
A cover letter should fit in one page with ample margins. It should contain three to four paragraphs. You should begin with a strong statement describing how you heard about the job opening and the reasons for your interest. This is also the place to explain any prior contacts with the company, such as a phone conversation, or if the candidate is being referred by someone known to the employer. The cover letter should explain what you know about the position and the company, and how your skills and experiences match what the employer needs. You should not say how the job will benefit you. Instead, the emphasis should always be on how you will benefit the company.
A cover letter should include the date, the recipient’s name, title, company name and address and a personalized salutation. The body of the letter should include a statement indicating your interest in the position (including any identifier mentioned in the job posting) and where you saw the posting. If you are sending your letter and resume as a follow-up on a phone conversation or as a referral from someone known to the employer, you should state that in the first paragraph. The second paragraph should describe how your qualifications match the job requirements. A possible approach is to create two columns in your letter, one column to highlight the job requirements and a second column next to it to show how you fit those requirements. Here you should make a reference to your resume for additional information. You can end the letter by thanking the reader, and indicating the next step. You can say that you look forward to hearing from the employer, and be sure to include your phone number and e-mail address where you can be reached. As an alternative, you can mention your intent to follow-up with a phone call. This is a good way to show your enthusiasm and strong interest, and often gives you the opportunity to learn more about the position and the company when you make the follow-up call.
Cover letter is an opportunity for you to differentiate yourself from other candidates. You can do so by highlighting how your skills and experiences will benefit the employer. A good cover letter will persuade the employer to call you for an interview.
Cover Letter Tips
Here are some tips for preparing your cover letters.
- Address the letter to a person: Your letter will be far more effective if it is addressed by name to the person doing the hiring. You should devote the needed time and effort to find out the name and title of the hiring manager or the recruiting manager. If this information is not included in the job posting, you can often find it on the Internet or by calling the company’s main office. Once you have this information, you should use a formal salutation such as Dr., Mr., or Ms. to address your cover letter. You should not begin a cover letter with Dear Sir or Madam, or address it To Whom It May Concern. The use of generic salutations in cover letters shows lack of real interest in the opportunity.
- Mention prior contact: When you are following up on a phone conversation or a prior meeting, always mention that at the beginning of your cover letter to remind the reader.
- Never use a form letter: Recruiters can quickly tell the difference between a form letter and the one designed specifically to meet the requirements of a job opening. Resumes attached to form letters are often ignored by recruiters. When you are really interested in the job opening, take the time to prepare a cover letter that highlights your skills and experiences as they are related to the job requirements.
- Keep it short: A cover letter should not be more than one page. It should be organized in just a few paragraphs to highlight your suitability for the job opening. Do not repeat what is already stated in the resume. A cover letter is intended to spark the reader’s interest to read your resume and should offer something more than what is contained in the resume.
- Research the company: The quality of your cover letter will depend on how much you know about the company. You should visit the company’s website and review trade publications to find out about the company’s mission, values, history, current customers and operating results. This information will also help you when you interview with the company.
- Explain how you meet the job requirements: You need to highlight your understanding of the job requirements and how your skills and experiences match those requirements. You should include examples of your accomplishments in similar roles in prior positions.
- State the next step: Remember to state what you plan to do as a follow up to sending the cover letter and resume. If it is your intention to call the employer in a week to request an interview, you should state that in the letter. And, make it a point to put that on your calendar and then do it.
- Letter should appear professional: The letter should include your name and contact information as well as the name, title, company name and full address of the hiring manager. The letter should appear attractive, and make sure there are no typographical or grammatical errors. You should use a spell checker. In addition, proof-read several times and have someone else proof-read it for you. This is your first impression to the hiring company, and you certainly want to make it a good impression.
The quality of the cover letter often determines whether or not it opens the door for an interview. You need to devote as much attention to preparing the cover letters as you do to preparing your resume. A cover letter is what the recruiter will see even before glancing at your resume. It is the first impression of a candidate to a prospective employer. If this impression is not favorable, the resume is likely to be discarded.
Your cover letter should be designed specifically for each position for which you are applying. It is a mistake to design a form letter and include it with your resume each time you send it. A well prepared cover letter will generally pave the way for an interview.
Avoid the following mistakes in putting together cover letters.
- Salary: You should never mention salary or expected title in your cover letters unless you are communicating with an executive search firm or have been asked to do so in the job description or by a representative of the company. Those are matters that will definitely come up for discussion when the employer has decided to make you an offer. Any mention of compensation issues by the candidate prior to that is untimely.
- Typographical errors: One typographical error is all it takes to turn off a recruiter. In addition to using the spell check program on your computer, you should have some friends and family members proof read your cover letter.
Effective cover letters communicate the reasons for your interest in a position, and highlight your skills and experiences which fit the job requirements.
Each cover letter must be tailor-made for each position in which you are interested. You should carefully review the position requirements stated in the job posting. You should write down your relevant qualifications next to each requirement. Your cover letter is essentially a summary of how your skills and experiences fit the job requirements. If you possess the needed qualifications, and you are able to communicate that in your cover letter, it is probable that you will be called for an interview.