You are ready to send your resume in to a potential employer, but before you do—consider adding a cover letter.
A cover letter allows you to briefly introduce yourself, highlight your qualifications, and express your genuine interest in the position you are applying for. These days, a cover letter can be in the form of the email message that accompanies your resume or a document that is placed before your resume.
Each cover letter should be customized for each application you submit.
Importance of a Cover Letter
A cover letter will help set you apart from the competition. It gives you an opportunity to succinctly explain why you would be a good fit for the company and position.
A cover letter gives you one more chance to leave a positive impression upon the recruiter or hiring manager. You also have a chance to explain: why you want the position, what interests you about the company, and your qualified knowledge about the position.
Format and Length
The main characteristic of a cover letter is that it is a concise message. Be clear and articulate while keeping statements brief. Cover letters are usually a few paragraphs long and should not be longer than a page. Usually they have three paragraphs, and each paragraph should be no longer than five sentences long.
A cover letter in the form of an email is simple.
You include a salutation, and personalize it if you know the name of the person who will receive the message. If you do not know the name, then do a general salutation, like: Dear Hiring Manager or Dear Recruiting Team. Do not assume the gender of the person receiving the document if you do not know 100 percent – you may offend someone unintentionally.
If you are sending a cover letter as a separate document attached to your resume, then the top will be formalized like you are writing a letter. Include a similar header like your resume: First name with last name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile link as well as the date.
In the first paragraph of the message you will mention the job you are specifically applying for and how you came across the position. This should be one or two sentences.
The second paragraph will explain why you are qualified for that specific position—highlight one important reason. Highlight any work experience that fits the job description’s requirements. And mention why you want to work for that company specifically—be genuine and do not use clichés. This paragraph might range from three to five sentences; once again—the shorter and more concise the more impressive of a candidate you will appear to be to the hiring manager.
The final paragraph of your letter will summarize and also discuss how you can proceed forward with the application. You can reiterate—in one sentence—why you are an ideal fit for the position. Discuss what you will do next—are you going to follow up with the hiring manager (might want to include an estimated time) or are you going to wait to hear back from the hiring manager to discuss your qualifications. You might also want to mention your resume is attached for their reference. Most importantly, thank the person for their time.
End your message with a proper closing; you can use: Best regards or Sincerely. Be sure to type out your full name, in lieu of your signature.
Keep the message simple and clear to the point. Use keywords but do not overuse them; less might be more in this situation. Do not fill your cover letter with jargon.
Emphasize your qualities and qualifications in the cover letter that are not visible in the resume.
Editing and Proofreading
Remember to edit this message before sending it out to a potential employer. This is your chance to impress an employer; spend the time needed to proofread your cover letter before sending it out.
A cover letter is a simple way to try and impress employers. They typically will not require too much time to write. And if you keep a basic version of yours—it will make it faster to customize your applications.