One common question I get from job seekers is whether or not a cover letter is necessary when applying for a new job. At a time when many resumes are sent to employers electronically, is the cover letter an outdated mode of communication?
The honest answer? It depends. If you use a cover letter as just a way of stating the job you are applying for and then asking for the hiring agent to read your resume, then no. Don’t bother. However, if you use it to introduce who you are, explain why you are a great fit for the opening and highlight a few of your most admirable traits, then yes, definitely send a cover letter along with your resume.
It shouldn’t surprise you which option described above I advocate. The well-written and purpose-driven cover letter is an indispensable tool for the job seeker. Learning to write one correctly will go a long way towards giving you a leg up on the competition.
Here are a few cover letter tips:
- Match your experience and education with the job requirements. Comb through the job listing to determine exactly what the position calls for and then explain how and why you meet those criteria.
- Address it to the person who will be reading your resume. A little research will go a long way here. Track down the person who does the initial screening of applicants. A polite phone call to the HR department will often yield a name you can use. Under no circumstances should you lead with “To Whom it May Concern.”
- Highlight some of your best experience. Yes, they will see this once they look at your resume, but why not give a quick sneak peek? Let them know what you can bring to the table right away. If the cover letter leaves a positive impression then the resume will be read with a positive predisposition.
- Format your cover letter correctly. Use standard one inch margins. Align your text to the left. Keep it to three to four paragraphs in length. Do not double space. Make sure you sign at the bottom if you send it by mail.
Bottom line: Never waste a chance to show employers what you are capable of doing for them. Think of the cover letter as one more opportunity to leave a positive impression. A purposeful cover letter just may be the thing that gets your resume moved to the top of the interview pile.
Steve Brady is a 10 year veteran resume writer and freelance writer who runs Quaility-Resumes, a full service writing business.