Add the finishing touch to your resume with a cover letter
Once your resume is a finished document, complete with an attractive design and comprehensive content, it’s time to add one last thing…a cover letter. While a resume is the bread and butter of who you are to a potential employer, a cover letter can be the personal touch that makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Second in command
When preparing a cover letter, it’s important to remember that the resume is always the most important part of your application. In fact, most employers read the resume first, and then if they are still interested they will take the time to read your cover letter. So never rely on the cover letter alone to get you in the door–use it instead to give you an edge once your resume has gotten you through the first round.
Always write your cover letter to the appropriate contact at the company. “To Whom It May Concern” does not cut it if you are serious about applying for a position. Take the time to find out whom you should send your resume to, and direct your letter to their attention. This gives you a specific contact with whom you can follow-up, and they will know you were interested enough to do some research on the company.
What you have to offer their company
Every cover letter you write should be customized for the specific company who will receive it. It is not enough to simply change names at the top of the letter. Research the company and address their specific needs; more specifically, concentrate on highlighting the benefits you can offer to the company. The cover letter is your chance to interpret the top skills on your resume and discuss why they make you the best candidate for the position.
The next step
At the end of your letter, make it clear that you are actively pursuing a position with the company, and not just sending out your resume to a long list of potential employers. Request an interview, and let the contact know that you will be in touch to further discuss your credentials and the open position if you haven’t heard from them by a certain date.
Once you are ready to send out your resume and cover letter, do a final edit! Mistakes on a cover letter are just as detrimental as they are on a resume. Your letter is an excellent indication of your communication skills, and a great opportunity to display just how well you can express yourself. A cover letter is usually not the first thing an employer reads, but it does have the power to make a more personal, customized pitch for your credentials. Be sure it’s customized for every company that receives it, make it clear that you are active in your pursuit of the job and edit it just as carefully as your resume. The cover letter is your chance to actually discuss your credentials, and serves as the first “conversation” with a potential employer, giving you a better chance of setting up your second conversation—an interview.