I probably should have posted this before I wrote about job interviewing skills, but hey . . . whatever. A good cover letter is another tool that you will need to help you land a job. Some people spend a lot of time decluttering their resumes, but then they forget to write a killer cover letter and all that work on their resume is a waste of time.

Reasons to Send a Cover Letter

  • Cover letters are customized to the specific job that you are seeking
  • A cover letter succinctly describes your skills for the interviewer without making them search your resume to find the relevant information.
  • Cover letters help you show your personality style: enthusiastic, goal-oriented, straightforward, etc.

What Should a Cover Letter Include?

  • State the job opening that you are applying for and how you heard about the position (Craigslist, company’s website, etc.)  If someone at the company told you about the position, it is a good idea to mention this in your cover letter.
  • Show that you are familiar with the company and explain why you want to work for them
  • Summarize your qualifications that make you a good fit for the job – you should pull this information directly from the job description
  • Effective cover letters are detailed but succinct.  Get straight to the point and avoid flowery language.
  • Give specific examples of achievements that may not be apparent from the resume.  For example, “At my previous job I increased sales by 25%.”
  • Give your contact information so that the interviewer can follow up with you

The same rules for writing a good resume apply to cover letters.

  • Be sure to proofread the cover letter to eliminate any typos.
  • Try reading the letter aloud to make sure that the letter flows naturally.
  • Have another person read the letter after you finish editing it.  A fresh pair of eyes never hurts.
  • Make sure that you have clean margins and that everything is properly aligned on the page.

Does an E-mail Count as a Cover Letter?
In today’s high tech job market, paper applications seem to be going the way of the dodo. Many jobs ask for you to e-mail your application. So does the e-mail count as a cover letter? The short answer is yes. With that in mind, here are some specific tips for e-mail cover letters.

  • Never leave the subject line blank.  The subject line should usually include the title of the job that you are applying for.
  • Make sure your e-mail address is professional.  Sexypants69XXX@gmail.com is an OK e-mail address if you’re cruising for dates on Manhunt, but a job application should be sent from a professional e-mail address.  For example: yourname@gmail.com.
  • Consider sending applications from an e-mail that is not linked to your social networking profiles.  Many HR departments will search Facebook and Twitter for applicants before they even consider calling you in for an interview.  So make sure that the image you present online is professional.

As a final note, think about the outgoing message that you have on your voicemail. If an HR department calls you, they don’t want to hear “you know what to do, bitches. BEEP!” Make sure your voicemail message is professional. For example: “You’ve reached Jane Doe. I’m sorry I missed your call. Please leave a message, including your name and phone number, and I will call you back.”

If your cell service allows you to have music for your ring tone, you should refrain from picking a song with heavy metal or hiphop. “My milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard” is not the image you want to present to a potential employer. Most HR directors will hang up if they hear that, and you application will end up in the shredder.

Click here and here for samples of effective cover letters. Good luck with your job search!