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What Your Cover Letter Does For You

cover letters, resumes, job applications, careerThis is a guest blog post by Robin Schlinger

A cover letter or cover email should be considered a requirement for any resume that you send to a company, recruiter or hiring manager.

It is true that your cover letter may never be read. But if the recruiter or hiring manager expects a cover letter, you want to be sure he finds one. Can you afford to be rejected if it is expected? Of course not. Therefore, you want one.

You may wonder, “What does a cover letter do for you?”

First, it gives you another opportunity to briefly emphasize your accomplishments and use the keywords that correspond to the job you are applying for.

Second, it is a great place to put information that the company has asked for that does not normally appear on a resume, such as a salary range or willingness to relocate.

Third, you can add a call to action; for example, stating that you look forward to discussing your qualifications in more detail. If a follow-up call is in order, you can let the recruiter or hiring manager know when you will make that call.

Finally, a cover letter is another opportunity to show your communication skills and attention to detail—which is why you should proofread your cover letter as carefully as your resume.

Recently, Career Directors International and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) have surveyed companies and human resource professionals on the benefits of a cover letter. In general, a personalized cover letter was viewed favorably by between 60% and 69% of respondents. In fact, 46% of SHRM respondents considered a cover letter just as important as the resume, or even more important.

How do you personalize a cover letter? In cover letters (unlike resumes), you can use the first person (I/me/my). Use that freedom to explain why you are perfect for this particular job. A recent survey indicated that what employers expect most in a cover letter are tailored skills, a clear statement of the job you’re applying for, details from the resume and then your personal value. Let’s take each element in turn.

  • Tailored skills: As with your resume, your cover letter should show how your skills match the skills that the company is looking for. Highlight your experience in the company’s industry and in the position.
  • Clarity: Be sure the cover letter specifically mentions the job you are applying for in the language used by the advertisement or posting.
  • Details from the Resume: Again, the details should be the ones most important to demonstrating your value to the company. You might want to stress one or two of your greatest achievements and accomplishments. Give exact information (“ranked 3 out of 30 salespeople”), not generic statements (“sales guru”).
  • Personal Value: Conduct research and check the company website to see how you might fit in and contribute to their culture and their business. Mission statements are a great way to find out about the culture. Add a sentence about why you have chosen to apply to that company (“I am passionate about environmental issues.”).

Although some recruiters will claim they never read cover letters, how do you know you are applying to someone who does not read them? Those who do not read cover letters will simply ignore them.  But can you chance having your resume rejected because you thought the cover letter would not be needed? It is far better to apply with a cover letter.

 Thanks kc7fys for the great photo via Flickr. 

Written by: Robin Schlinger
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Categories: Cover Letters And Resumes

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