A good resume is definitely important when applying for a job; whether or not you are called in for interview will depend on much of the information that is included in your resume and a badly presented one will often go to the bottom of the pile. However, a good cover letter can make a good resume stand out even more than it otherwise would. A well-worded and presented cover letter will prove to your employer that you have the professional skills to do the job in question. Resumes can be virtually lifted from the Internet these days, and there are companies that help job seekers put together a resume, and employers are very aware of this. However, it is more difficult to ‘fake’ a cover letter, so your employer will take note of the language you use and your presentation skills.
As good as any resume can possibly be, it can become even better with a well written cover letter. You absolutely “never” mail a resume without a cover letter. Why? Because it can say so much more than your resume is supposed to. It can explain what your intentions are with the resume you’re presenting, such as your plans for changing careers or industries. It can also reemphasize the strengths and competencies that you are offering a potential employer. It’s an important tool that you must use in the pursuit of employment.
A resume is often little more than a list of work experience and qualifications – obviously necessary for the job, but sometimes a little dry, particularly if you have a lot of experience. In your cover letter, you can emphasise what you think are the main reasons that you are qualified for the job in question. You can also expand a little in the letter, explaining that this is why you are a great candidate. A thorough employer should be able to see this from your resume anyway, but a little extra stress is unlikely to do you any harm and should make you more memorable.
The key to writing a great cover letter is to start with a draft, making sure all important issues concerning your experience, skills and abilities are included. Work with the draft until you get all the critical information addressed in a succinct manner. Remember, if the letter is too wordy, there’s a good chance it won’t be read. Good writing skills are important. Typically, you will be able to write your own cover letter, but if you feel you need assistance, seek it out. There is nothing wrong with getting help from someone else or using a resume writing service, if necessary. It is just that important! The letter has to be developed and written properly.
The good thing about a cover letter is that you only need one good one. That’s right, only one good one. Once you have the body of the letter written (the part that showcases your experience, skills and competencies), you just simply adapt that same letter over and over again to the particular employer by changing the inside address, salutation, etc. It might be necessary to make other slight adjustments if you are attempting to make some major change in your career outside of your normal profession or industry.
If a part of your job search includes direct mail, always indicate in the last line of your letter that you will be following up with a phone call at some point. Make that phone call. Otherwise, don’t waste your time. Direct mail without a phone call is a complete waste of time and postage.
Always try to address your letter to a person. You want to avoid, if at all possible, a general salutation such as “Dear Hiring Manager”. However, in the absence of a name, use “Hiring Manager” as opposed to “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May concern”.
If you don’t know the appropriate manager’s name, do a little leg work and find out. You can call the company’s Human Resources Department and get the name. Be sure and ask for the correct spelling. You have a much better chance of getting your letter and resume in front of a hiring manager if you address it directly to that person.
It is important to first read the job description provided by the employer or agency. This contains the key to writing your cover letter. The job tasks or list of duties are an expansion of the selection criteria, stating specific duties which may be required to be performed in this particular job. Could you do this work? Would you enjoy it? Have you performed these duties before? If you decide that this job is for you, then you can begin writing your application.
You need to address each selection criteria in detail. Be thorough in covering every point possible. The SC’s will often state “A Demonstrated ability in.” This means the employer is looking for an example or detailed description of how you have performed this task a direct or at least parallel account from your own experience. Describe the situation, and how you effectively handled it.
If you want your resume to shine, a well written cover letter is a must! Obviously, if you don’t have the skills that the employer is looking for, a cover letter, no matter how good, is not going to make any difference. However, with some careful forethought, if you do have the right qualifications, your cover letter can most certainly make you stand out in the mind of the employer. So, bottom line, never underestimate the importance of a good cover letter with your resume!