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Cover Letter Q&A

When do you use a cover letter?

Submit a cover letter anytime you send a resume, even if it's sent electronically.

How long should a cover letter be?

No more than one page with only 3-4 paragraphs.  Include a few bullet points that contain relevant accomplishments, skills or qualifications.

Is it too bold to request an interview in a cover letter?

No.  You should always request an interview in a cover letter.  Be confident in your cover letter and let your confidence show through.

Should I mention my resume in the cover letter?

Yes.  The purpose of the cover letter is to develop rapport with the reader and announce and draw attention to the resume.

Is a cover letter required even when applying on Career Builder?

Yes.  A cover letter is still a good idea.  It can't hurt and gives you a chance to draw attention to some of key qualifications.

Can I use my cover letter over and over?

Yes, but, freshen it up each time so it doesn't seem like you are doing that.  Your cover letter should also mention your specific qualifications for the position, too.  You would want to update your qualifications in each letter.

Does my cover letter have to be addressed to a specific person?

It should be when at all possible.  Do everything you can to find out who should receive your cover letter and address it to them.

Any other tips about my cover letter?

Your cover letter should match the style of your resume.  Your cover letter should be professional, but sound like a real person wrote it.  Keep it down to three paragraphs along with 3-4 bullet points that demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the position.  The first paragraph should be an introductory paragraph, the second paragraph should be your sales pitch and the third paragraph should be a call to action for the potential employer.

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Nuts and Bolts of Effective Cover Letters

By Linda Marias, Career Strides

As a job seeker, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of a cover letter. If written strategically, a cover letter increases your chances for consideration, and provides an opportunity to highlight your individuality. A cover letter is much more than just a letter stating, “I read the job announcement in Sunday’s classified, please accept this letter as an application of interest”. It is a statement that tells the reader what they can expect from you if hired.

The challenging part of writing a cover letter is determining what information to include. After all, all the juicy information was included in the resume. What could you possibly add to the cover letter that will add substance to your qualifications? Keep in mind that the resume and cover letter have different purposes. A resume demonstrates that you can do the job, it highlights your past accomplishments, while a cover letter points out the extent to which you match the job requirements for a specific a company and how you will fit in.

A well-written cover letter gives you an advantage over your competition because it provides another opportunity to showcase your experience and qualifications. Cover letter basics can be mastered by following the pointers below.

  • Sell! Sell! Sell!
  • A cover letter is more than just a business letter; it is a sales letter. Begin with a strong introduction, layout the benefits you offer, and establish credibility by showcasing your accomplishments.

  • Write as you speak
  • The cover letter should have a professional conversational tone, but sound as though a real person wrote it. Many people fall in the trap of using big word to communicate their message. Instead, write in a straightforward manner that entices the reader to review the resume. The words you choose should demonstrate enthusiasm for the position, company and industry. Write from the reader’s perspective. Action words should not be reserved for the resume. Begin each sentence with a power word. Don’t use a passive voice. Avoid starting sentences with the word “I.” Like the resume, the cover letter’s focus is on the hiring company, and beginning too many sentences with “I” puts the spotlight too much on you

  • Don’t rehash your resume
  • Be creative when presenting your qualifications and accomplishments. You don’t want to bore the reader by simply repeating the information you included in your resume. Find different ways to communicate the same message. The best way to do this is by selecting three to five major selling points and highlighting them in the body of the cover letter. Doing so will entice the reader to do more than just glance at your resume.

  • Ask for an interview
  • Be proactive. In the last paragraph tell the reader that you will be contacting him or her to setup a meeting time. After all, the purpose of applying for a job is to be invited in for an interview, so don’t be shy, go for it.

You should use every tool at your disposal to secure an interview. Targeted cover letters add to your portfolio of qualifications and deserve as much consideration as a resume. .