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Cover letter: powerful tool or first step on the road to nowhere?


Your cover letter might help you get a job interview, but an effective cover letter combined with a dynamic resume will get you an interview. Cover letters need to be sent whether you mail, fax or email your resume, but it needs to be focused, concise and to the point. The objective of a cover letter is to provide a compelling snapshot of why you should be invited to interview for the position for which you are interested. The text of your cover letter should briefly inform the employer why you are interested in the job and why you are the best candidate they will consider for the job.
Cover letters can be divided into two types: general and specific. The general cover letter describes your skills and qualifications and may be used if not addressing the employer by name and date you wrote the cover letter. A general or generic cover letter can be used when you are approaching many companies with the hope that someone just might have a job opening in your field. This approach is not recommended – it’s a very long shot and with such fierce competition will likely be considered a waste of time by the company making any hope of employment unlikely. The specific cover letter is directed to an individual or the company for a specific position with that company. Specific cover letters are by far the most common and indicates to the company that you are truly interested in the job opening and expresses a sincere desire to work for them.
A well thought-out and composed cover letter may be the deciding factor in including you for an interview or dismissing your resume with all the others that were rejected. A cover letter needs to complement your resume and highlight a few things not included on your resume. The cover letter is designed to add a personal touch to your resume and convince the employer that they need to seriously consider you as a candidate. The cover letter will be read before the resume, therefore it will establish the first impression you make upon an employer. Don’t take this point lightly, you know, “one chance to make a good first impression.”
The cover letter needs to be designed specifically for each company and job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a job with ABC Financial, you will write a completely different cover letter from one that you would use for a position with XYZ Financial. If you use a template or fill-in-the-blanks cover letter, it will likely be ignored by most employers. It’s easy for employers to weed out candidates that are actually responding to a specific position from those that are just applying to several job openings – desperate candidates are obvious. The cover letter must not only state skills and experiences that are relevant to the job opening, but also express a high degree of interest in the position and demonstrate knowledge about the position making it easy to connect you to the position,
A cover letter will have three important paragraphs that cover the following: 1) the reason why you are writing the letter, 2) specific skills, background, education, certifications, and experience you have to offer the employer, 3) will describe how you will follow-up. Additional information could include what might be considered “clearing the decks” where you can mention items that may come up in an interview. For example you may want to state “…years of experience” to suggest you are not an entry level job seeker.
Beginning with the first paragraph, you need to present the reasons you are writing the employer. If you have been referred by a colleague, employee or another person, be sure to include their name in this paragraph. One suggestion is to begin the first paragraph by stating something like: "I am ’writing to you at the suggestion of John Doe regarding the financial analyst position in your accounting department." If you found the job through a job posting, you should include this information in the cover letter. You need to express your sincere interest in the position and list several key attributes that would help them connect your qualifications to the job. You should state something like: "Please accept this cover letter and resume as an expression of my sincere interest in the Assistant Marketing Representative position posted on Yahoo! Hot Jobs. From my resume you will see that my educational background, experience and skills would prove to be an effective asset to your company. I welcome the opportunity to learn more about the position and discuss my qualifications at your earliest convenience.”
An effective cover letter will refer the reader to your resume, without repeating the information found on your resume. The cover letter is the appropriate place to provide information that you could not fit on your resume. If you have experience in some areas that need to be emphasized, the cover letter is a perfect place to put this information. For example, you could include a sentence about your management experience by stating "evidence of my management and leadership skills can be seen in my having been promoted to Team Lead, “ Mirror your qualifications in the cover letter by directly connecting them with the job posting wording, such as: "Your job posting listed that a degree in Business is required. My degree in both Business and Psychology, combined with my twelve years experience as a Senior Product Manager for ABC Corporation has prepared me for this position."
The final paragraph of a cover letter is used to state details regarding how you plan to contact the recipient of your cover letter and resume in order to arrange an appointment. It is important that you contact the potential employer during the time frame that you state in the follow-up paragraph. If you are unable to reach the person via telephone, try emailing the individual. Make every effort confirm that your submittal was received and try to contact the person responsible for scheduling the interviews. A general rule is try to follow-up within a week of submitting your cover letter and resume.
A poorly constructed cover letter will guarantee that even the best resume will not even be read, with this tough economy and unprecedented competition for every available job it is critical that you spend time and effort on your cover letter. Even if you’re the best candidate you won’t even get an interview if the cover letter doesn’t compel the employer to read your resume.  Subscribe to the latest articles from terry or chat live: click here