The Cover Letter
It has been said, "Unless you want your resume to end up at the bottom of a secretary's wastebasket, don't send (or fax) your resume anywhere without an accompanying cover letter." We add, "The letter needs to be addressed to a person with whom you have made contact." The cover letter either introduces the specific employer to you or refers to a contact you have made with the employers. The only purpose of a cover letter and resume is to obtain an interview. It should be concise, confident, positive, and cordial.
The cover letter should include the following three components:
- The first paragraph should tell why you are writing and why you're interested in their organization. This paragraph identifies a position you are seeking or an opening and where you learned about it. If you have a name to drop, do it in the first sentence. The average cover letter/resume gets about 20 seconds so this greatly improves your chances of getting through the first screening.
- The second paragraph indicates how your skills and qualifications relate to the organization or a specific position. Highlight small portions of your resume that apply to a position's requirements. Use examples of specific achievements or qualifications and focus on how you were able to produce results. Try not to repeat sections of your resume, but try to amplify related qualifications.
- The third paragraph refers the reader to the enclosed resume and indicates your follow-up intentions. Inform the employer of your desire to interview, when you will be available, and when you will contact them next. Take responsibility for follow up: this shows initiative, perseverance, and that you carry a plan through. Repeat your phone number in the cover letter, and always thank the reader for his or her help.