While we all know that a resume is important to the jobsearch process, it is not necessarily the most important document you will need to secure an interview.
Many people believe that a strategically targeted cover letter is the most important weapon you need to fight this battle and to win it. There are two key reasons why.
- The cover letter allows you to target the job and the employer in a very specific way, leaving the resume to market your skills, qualities and experience as a part of the bigger picture. Your resume then needs less tweaking with each application because the letter, which must be different each time, does that for you.
- A great cover letter should not just repeat your resume in a shorter form, but should tell the employer what it is about the job that is attractive to you and why you want to work for that employer. You will also need to include the unique skills and the qualities you bring to that job and the company.
Writing a killer cover letter is not a simple task. It requires thought, knowledge and understanding
Many employers and recruiters read the letter first. Some will not even consider your resume until they are satisfied by the content of your letter. So it is a very important document.
- You will need to do research on the employer and the job before writing the letter
- It will need to be written in an engaging style using keywords applicable to the job
- In the letter you will need to show that you have made the effort to learn about their company by acquiring relevant knowledge before going to the interview, if you are chosen.
So what do you do if the employer is not disclosed in the job advert? Well the letter still has to be written specifically to the job addressing the key requirements stated and your enthusiasm needs to shine through. No letter can just say "here is my resume", not if you want an interview. You will need to convey:
- I have reviewed your website and understand your business
- You are my employer of choice
- I believe my personality fits with your organisational culture (providing it does)
- I really want to work for an organisation with your values
These all help to sell "your fit" with their organisation. At Successful Resumes we believe the cover letter needs as much attention and skill in the preparation as your resume.
If you need help with your cover letter please visit our website here likewise if you require a free assessment of your resume or advice on government selection criteria go to our website. One of our national team of highly qualified and experienced writers will be available to work with you to ensure you have the best chance of winning the interview to kick start or reignite your career.
By John Little Managing Director of Successful Resumes Australia - visit us at www.successfulresumes.com.au
Should you always send a cover letter?
Do you always have to submit a cover letter, or can you skip it? We checked in with a panel of career experts to find out.
Cover letters could give you an advantage.
You found an exciting new job posting and are getting ready to submit your resume, but what about a cover letter? Is it always necessary to spend time writing a cover letter, or are there times you can get away without one? We checked in with a panel of career experts to find out.
Pro: Cover letters can set you apart
“Skip the cover letter, and you miss out on an opportunity to sell yourself,” says Evelyn Salvador, author of Step-by-Step Cover Letters: Build a Cover Letter in 10 Easy Steps Using Personal Branding and principal of Creative Image Builders, a resume-development and career-coaching firm in Coram, New York.
Sending a cover letter along with a resume helps you build your brand the same way an advertising company promotes a product’s brand. “A well-defined brand wins interviews, maximizes salary potential and puts job seekers in the top 2 percent of candidates considered for positions,” Salvador says.
Think of your cover letter as another tool in your job search arsenal, says Betty Corrado, owner of career-coaching and resume-writing firm Career Authenticity in Cos Cob, Connecticut. “The cover letter is a key part of your marketing package,” she says. “Use it as an opportunity to convey your brand and value proposition.”
Pro: Cover letters let you reveal your personality and build rapport
A resume tends to be fact-based and somewhat formal, but a cover letter can be infused with personality. “Don’t be afraid to inject personal notes about interests or philosophies that may help employers determine if you will fit into their culture,” says Roleta Fowler Vasquez, professional resume writer and owner of Wordbusters in Fillmore, California. To increase the “wow” factor of their cover letters, she encourages applicants to add a few standout accomplishments that don’t appear on the resume.
Laila Atallah, a Seattle career counselor and owner of Career Counseling with a Twist, agrees that a cover letter can be more revealing than a resume. “The best cover letters are infused with energy, personality and details about the applicant’s skills and achievements,” she says. “I get a sense of the person and what they’ve accomplished, and it’s easier for me to picture them in their next job.”
Job seekers often make the mistake of sending a resume without a cover letter, says Ann Baehr, president of Best Resumes of New York in East Islip, New York. “This is a missed opportunity to establish rapport with employers and provide a sense of who they are beyond their work experience,” she says.
Thinking about skipping the cover letter when applying for an internal position? Don't. Use the cover letter to show how well you understand your employer’s mission and remind management of how much you have already accomplished.
Include a cover letter even if a colleague is submitting your resume for you. The letter is a chance to introduce yourself and mention your contact as a reminder that you are a referral. This is what a cover letter should include, should you decide to send one.
Pro: Cover letters let you tell a story
The cover letter can include information that would be out of place on the resume. “Job seekers can include the name of a mutual contact or referral, state how they would benefit the employer if hired and explain tricky situations such as changing careers, relocating, returning to the workforce and so on,” Baehr says.
Atallah encourages job seekers to learn about the requirements of the job opening and use the cover letter to express how and why they are uniquely qualified. “Use your cover letter to tell a story,” she says. “Studies show that stories are memorable and engaging, and cover letters are a perfect vehicle for expressing your successes in a more storylike format.”
When not to send a cover letter
Given all the reasons to send a cover letter, is it ever a good idea not to? “If the application instructions expressly say not to include a cover letter, or if an online application offers no opportunity, then you can forego the cover letter in these cases,” Atallah says.
Vasquez agrees that you should not send a cover letter when the employer specifically says not to. “This may be a test of your ability to follow directions,” she says.
What if you think the cover letter won’t be read? Corrado says that while some hiring managers say they don’t read cover letters, those who do may dismiss your application if you don’t send one. “Why take this chance when you need every possible advantage in this job market?” she asks.
While writing cover letters is time-consuming, the consensus is that the effort could give you an edge and help you land more interviews.
Looking for more ways you can stand out in your job search? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume and cover letter. Recruiters search Monster every day looking for exceptional candidates just like you.