Lazy job seekers often neglect writing a cover letter in favor of just a resume. However, if you are serious about your job search, you should always include a customized cover letter with every resume you send out. You don't want to run the risk of your resume getting ignored because you didn't observe this formality.
If at all possible, address the letter to a specific person and avoid the generic "To whom it may concern." Hiring managers like to see that you went to the trouble to learn their names. The first sentence of your cover letter is easy enough to write. According to Virginia Tech's Career Services Department, all cover letters need to clearly explain why you are sending the resume in the first place. For example, you could write, "I am writing to apply for the position of junior account manager at your Denver branch." This way the hiring manager reading the letter knows immediately what it is you're seeking. Virginia Tech also recommends briefly letting the reader know how you came across the job opportunity. Do you have a friend who works for the same company who suggested that you apply? Tasteful name-dropping is a smart thing to do here. Did you come across the open position on an online job board? Talk briefly about why the job offer stood out to you.
What Do You Bring to the Table?
Devote a paragraph in your cover letter to how your experience qualifies you for the particular job. Discuss specific skills, such as team leading, communications and computer programing, and how they relate to the requirements of the job. At the same time, don't rehash verbatim the information you included in your resume; select only the best and most relevant job information to expound on in your cover letter. The key is to sell your particular talents to the hiring manager. Cover letters should be brief and to the point, yet still reveal a bit about your personality, work ethic and career aspirations.
Praise the Company
But enough about you. The hiring manager's main concern is the company. That's why it's a good idea to devote a second paragraph to explaining what attracted you to the business and how your values line up with its mission statement. Transition from what you want out of the company to what you plan to do to make it better. The career services department at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire recommends that you avoid overusing the word "I" in your cover letter.
Proofread and Edit
Typos and poor spelling, grammar and punctuation on your resume make you come across as unprofessional. Spell check doesn't catch everything, so read over your resume three times slowly to check for any errors. It's also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to look it over as well.
- California State University-Chico discusses effective cover letters.