Last issue we discussed making a great first impression with your resume. While this is probably the most important way to get recognized by a human resource professional, many people overlook the cover letter and the benefits it can provide to your job search. Your cover letter may not always get read, but in the instances that it does it can give you the competitive edge. Always include a cover letter when you send your resume, unless specifically asked not to.
Cover letters can serve many purposes. Some of the greatest benefits include describing in more detail while you are a fit for the job; giving more in-depth examples of work experience; explaining any employment gaps that you may have; expressing your personality; and initiating follow-up action.
Each cover letter should be unique to the position and organization you are applying for. Each letter should be very clear as to what and why you are applying. Don’t leave anything up for interpretation in the eyes of the employer.
Be sure to address your cover letter to an actual person—not “Dear Sirs” or “To Whom it May Concern.” If you do not know who to address the letter to, you can utilize the company Web site to locate the contact name or don’t be afraid to contact the company’s receptionist and ask for the right contact.
Keep cover letters clear and concise. Don’t worry about using fancy language and be sure that you include a way for the employer to reach you. Also be sure to use spell check and proofread carefully.
Your cover letter should not be a recap of your resume. You want to use it to highlight things that will make you stand out from the competition.
Use the first paragraph of the cover letter to state your interest and give specific examples of your qualifications for this particular position. Another piece of advice regarding content when talking about examples, is to use the same action words or similar words that are used within the job description. Using the same phrases and words can be a quick way to connect with the employer. Take a look at the company Web site and do some research about the organization, use the cover letter as a way to show the employer that you know something about them.
If for some reason you have a gap in your resume, say you had a baby for example and took some time off. Your cover letter can help to explain that and also allow you to explain some of the activities that you did while you were away that may be applicable, such as participating in a club as the treasure or on the fundraising committee.
Also, be sure to address all the requested information in your cover letter, such as availability or start date and salary ranges.
This is where many people go wrong with their cover letters. In your closing, don’t use the cliché—“I look forward to hearing from you.” You need to show some initiative, ask them for an interview and then follow-up by stating when you would like to arrange a time to discuss the opportunity. Complete your letter by being as bold as to ask for the job.
If you would like more advice regarding cover letters, please contact AgCareers.com firstname.lastname@example.org.