Some career experts have declared the cover letter as dead – unnecessary, and a waste of time because they take so much effort to craft and so few people read them. We say cover letters aren’t dead and they can still be the secret weapon to landing a great job, if done right. While some hiring managers prefer seeing cover letters alongside resumes – and they are critical in sectors like marketing or communications where writing is a key part of the job – some do not.
But whether or not you know a cover letter is expected, it’s never a bad idea to write one. The cover letter is a good way to add a human touch to your job application and it might just be what helps you stand out from the rest. If the resume is the place to show your qualifications, then the cover letter is the place to prove you’re the right culture and personality “fit” for the role. Everything else being equal between your resume and another person’s, the cover letter can help determine whether or not you’re called in for an interview.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing a cover letter:
1) Keep your cover letter short – It is best to keep your cover letter short and concise; keep it to one page. Briefly detail how your skills and experience are a good match for the position. A shorter cover letter is more likely to be read.
2) Do your research – Find the name of the hiring manager and address the cover letter to him or her. If this information isn’t on the job description, you can often find it on the company’s website. If you can’t find the information online, call the company and ask who heads up the team or department the position you’re applying for belongs to. More often than not, the receptionist at the hiring company will be able to tell you. A personalized letter is also more likely to be read.
3) Be specific – Mention the position you’re applying for and use the job description to guide your writing. Tell the hiring manager why you want to work at the company, and what specific skills you bring that are relevant to the job. First make it about them, then explain how you can help make the organization ever better. You’d be surprised how many applicants send a resume/cover letter without knowing anything about the company.
4) Wrap up with next steps – End the letter by telling the hiring manager you will follow up with him or her by a certain time in the next week. Allow at least five days and then call or email as you said you would. That said, also show you can follow instructions – if a job posting asks candidates not to follow up via phone or email, respect that request. Instead, end your cover letter with a simple “I look forward to hearing from you”
5) Last looks – Double and triple-check your cover letter (and resume) for typos and grammatical errors. Some hiring managers receive so many applications that they screen the first wave of applicants by tossing all that have errors in them.
It is important to include a cover letter with your application and use it to explain things your resume might miss. Even if you choose to write a short, simple one, a well-written cover letter can be the thing that lands you the interview.
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