Whether you are searching for a telecommuting job or a traditional job, you need a great cover letter to go with your resume.
As a manager I’ve screened hundreds of applicants. During the process of selecting candidates for interviews, it often comes down to the person’s cover letter as the deciding factor.
Without a doubt, those who submit a great cover letter with their resume have an edge.
Although Human Resource Managers and recruiters all have their own way of doing things, here is my approach to looking at new applicants…
A Good Resume Invites Recruiters to Read Your Cover Letter
I always look at a person’s resume first. I quickly breeze over qualifications and employment history. If they look promising in these areas, then their cover letter gets my attention.
The cover letter provides insight into a person, e.g. how organized they are by examining the presentation of the letter, whether they have taken the time to find out anything about my company, whether they have had or do have any ties to the company, whether they have specified the job they want, will they travel, and so on.
The meat is in the resume – it provides facts for quickly assessing your skills, achievements, and work history. If you look qualified for a job via your resume, then your cover letter becomes the deciding factor for a possible interview.
The Goal of a Cover Letter
The goal of your cover letter is to introduce yourself to the company and to sell yourself.
If you do this well enough, you are at the top of the list for an interview, assuming you are qualified for the position.
Advice for a Strong Cover Letter
- Make it short. Definitely no more than one page. Half a page is better. Two paragraphs is even better. If you can whittle it down to that and make your case succinctly, then you are proving yourself to be a great communicator. That’s a huge plus in my book.
- Be professional and concise. Never try to be humorous. Keep your tone on a “business only” level.
- Always put yourself in the best light and never give hints that you may be under qualified, even if you think you are.
- Never mention work experience in the cover letter that isn’t included on your resume. This no-no equals an automatic strike out.
- Make sure it contains no typos or poor grammar. Have someone proof your letter before using it.
- Know what you are applying for. Be specific. Know the job title. Never say you’ll take anything available. You are a professional. State the job title you are wanting to be considered for in the first paragraph of your cover letter.
- I always ask candidates why they want to work for me. This is where they have the opportunity to impress me by saying something such as “Because your company is the largest retailer of wireless communication devices, I feel strongly that I should position my future with a leader in the industry.” I want to know that the candidate has done a little research. I want to know that they understand my business and at the same time they see a opportunity for self-fulfillment within my company. This is information you include in the first paragraph of the cover letter.
- Next, you must have a clear understanding of the contributions you will make to the company. This is paragraph number two. Ask yourself how your set of skills and past experiences will directly impact the company. This paragraph can be called the “What can you do for the company?” section.
- Never conclude a letter with a flippant “I hope you call me” type of ending. Always specify a date that you will follow-up with the company and how you will follow-up.
Applying these tips will help you to be a step ahead of the pack. Recruiters routinely discard many applicants based solely on a poorly written cover letter. Since your goal is to get in the door for an interview, taking the time to create a winning cover letter is a tactic you can’t afford to skip!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brett Krkosska provides how-to advice on small business and home-based work issues. He is the founder of HomeBizTools and the publisher of Straight Talk, a syndicated column that offers a unique perspective on today’s business issues.