A cover letter is a brief introduction of yourself and often gives you the opportunity to express your interest in the position. Not all companies require or even allow a cover letter to be included with your resume. Be sure to check before attaching one to your email application or send it along by postal mail.
One common problem occurs when people write cover letters – they construct it as if it were a mini-resume. It is not. Think of a cover letter as an advertisement and the resume as the product connected to the ad. An advertisement tells you the advantages of buying the product, but only discusses the actual product a little.
There is no format to follow when constructing a cover letter. Some books and web sites will show sample cover letters that have been successful, but for our purposes following another person’s success formula is advised against. The reason? Our approach is that you are your own product, so you cannot be duplicated, nor can your cover letter.
However, there are some guidelines you should follow so it is connected to the resume in the mind of the reader. Like the resume, you should include the following information:
- Your formal name, current address, city, state, and zip code
- A contact telephone number
- Adding the date you write the cover letter is optional, but recommended.
In writing the content of the cover letter, you should keep it short. Two, perhaps three, short paragraphs at the most. The employer wants to know why you are interested in the position and what you believe are your greatest strengths that you have to offer the company.
There are other reasons an employer may require a cover letter. One of the most common and less considered by the applicant is the employer is looking for the level of the applicant’s writing skills. For you, this means that you must carefully read, write, edit, rewrite, and review each sentence and paragraph of the cover letter before sending it. Positions that require writing reports, secretarial positions, and even some management positions will need to be especially careful of the language and grammar used in the cover letter.
Formal writing and language is essential in the cover letter content. Avoid slang phrases and colloquialisms, but write plainly and simply. Your ability to communicate in writing will also be evaluated, so be sure to say precisely what you mean to say.
As with providing false information on the resume, it is advised against having a friend or other person write your cover letter. Yes, there are resume writing agencies but the language contents of a resume are different from the cover letter. Should you get an interview, the interviewers will know quickly whether the language in the cover letter is yours or was written by someone else. If they believe there is a significant difference, they may continue the interview, but it is likely you have dropped out of serious consideration for the job.