How to Write Cover Letters for Resumes

You, not your resume, will get you the job or project
writing a cover letter

What determines who gets a job, a person or a resume?

A person, of course. No matter how stellar the resume and how on-target it is for a particular job, it is the person behind the resume that sells an employer and lands the job. But before you can persuade an employer in person that you are the one for the job, you should pre-sell them in print. That’s why any response to an ad requiring a resume should include a cover letter.

Writing a Cover Letter for Resumes

A cover letter, not your resume, is your chief marketing document. While your resume lists your credentials and experience, it only helps you make the first cut – those who are qualified to do the job. Usually, however, many people are qualified. And when an employer places a newspaper ad announcing a job opening, the number of qualified applicants sending in responses can be staggering.

That’s where a cover letter comes in and asking yourself the right cover letter questions will help you create a stronger pitch. It’s a selling document that helps you stand out from the crowd.

“A well-written cover letter always attracts my attention because I receive so few of them,” said a senior executive at a major continuing legal education organization, who has hired several attorneys over the years.

Cover Letter Writing Tips

Here are some tips for writing an effective cover letter:

Make a connection to the job

The ad to which you are responding contains revealing language. It describes what the employer is seeking. Describe yourself in those terms. If a “creative problem-solver” is sought, write: “I am a creative problem-solver who set up a new purchasing procedure in my department that saved $57,000 a year.”

You need not go too much into your background in the cover letter – that’s the job of the resume. But add special items that might not be in your resume but which directly address points made in the ad.

Show interest

If the organization identifies itself in its ad, do some research. Check out its website; read about it in industry directories and magazines. Try weaving this information into your letter.

For example, “I noticed on your Web site that XYZ is a major contributor to the ABC Fund. I am an ABC volunteer in my community, and I have been associated with the organization as a fundraiser for five years.”

Explain your motivation

Resumes tell “what.” A cover letter can tell “why.”

“I would be very interested in speaking with you about the opening at XYZ because I’ve decided I am ready to assume greater responsibilities in human resources management than currently are available to me.”

“I believe my experience in the fast-changing bio-optics industry makes me uniquely suited to the opportunity at your company.”

Be neat

Write the letter, read it over several times and made sure it flows smoothly. No one expects you to be John Steinbeck or Danielle Steele, but a fluid, well-written letter – containing no typos or spelling mistakes – shows clear thinking and attention to detail.

Use plain white or off-white paper and a 12-point, conventional typeface (like Times Roman) on your word processor. Your clarity of thought and clarity of presentation will do the selling.

(C) Copyright 2001 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA

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