Resume Cover Letter Guide
When applying for a job or internship, remember that future employers will (almost) always require a resume and cover letter, and that these documents your very first impression to both the employer and company. Since your resume and cover letter are the only things standing between you and that position, let’s get writing!
Starting Your Cover Letter
You can’t start a letter without a greeting right? A cover letter is no different, and should be addressed to a specific individual. This may take a bit of research, but it’s important that you address the cover letter to a specific person as opposed to “to whom it may concern.” Taking the easy way out may give the impression that you are too lazy to find the hiring manager’s name, or don’t care about the position. Check the job posting and company website, scour Google and LinkedIn, and if worse comes to worst, pick up the phone and call the company directly. Remember that you don’t have to give them your name when asking who the hiring manager is. This may seem like overkill, but it’s worth your time. Of course, there will be instances when the information is simply not there and in that case the company will know it, so address your cover letter as you see fit.
State the Position
An employer should not have to guess what position you are applying for. Clearly state to whom you are writing, what position you are interested in, why you are interested, and why the company would benefit from you being in their company. It’s also thoughtful to mention how you found out about the available position, as employers have job postings on several sites and related search engines. If you know someone who works at the company, don’t be afraid to drop names. Hiring managers take unsolicited resumes more seriously when they assume you were referred by one of their employees or customers.
Relate Your Experience
The next one or two paragraphs should be about your specific experiences that make you perfect for the position. Pick and choose some of your experience and/or education that is specifically related to the company's requirements, or elaborate on qualifications that are not in your resume but apply to this particular job. If you make mention of the company and its needs, it becomes immediately obvious that your cover letter is not generic. Don’t be afraid to really sell yourself!
Your cover letter can explain some of the holes in your resume. If you have had a gap in your employment history then be sure to give an explanation. Just remember to keep it very clear and concise. Odds are, the employer will have 50 resumes on his desk to look over and he won’t have all day to read your “fluff.” In a quick glance, the employer should be able to know your name, position that you are applying for, and some basic qualifications.
The closing should be concise. Let the reader know what you want (an application, an interview, an opportunity to call). If you are planning to call the person on a certain day, you could close by saying, "I will contact you next Tuesday to set up a mutually convenient time to meet." Don't call on Mondays or Fridays if you can help it. If you aren't comfortable making these cold calls, you can close your letter with something like: "I look forward to hearing from you soon." Remember to say, "Thank you for your consideration" or something to that effect.
Personal Contact Information: Obviously, the employer is going to want to interview you after reading such a great cover letter, so be sure to include your personal contact information. Most professionals choose to place it at the top left hand corner above the employers contact information and greeting, but this is personal preference.
Make sure to include:
- Your name
- Email address
- Phone number
Before your cover letter gets sent off in the mail or emailed to your future employer it is a good idea to check and proofread it … many times. It should have a nice flow from beginning to end, use strong diction and answer any gaps or questions the reader may have. After your brain starts to hurt from perfecting your letter, have someone else to check it over as well. A second set of eyes never hurts!
Be sure to check for:
- Spelling, grammatical or typographical errors
- Missing words
- Appropriate contact information
Signed, Sealed, and Delivered
Once you have proofread everything you should make a copy for your own records. This can come in handy for the follow-up call or email from your future employer, as it’s always helpful to know what he/she already knows about you and what they may ask.
Now that you’re practically a cover letter guru, spread your knowledge and land that job or internship!