Cover Letter Guide

An Overview

In many ways your cover letter is as important as your resume. As most employers only skim read resumes, you should use your cover letter to bring attention to what makes you the best person for the job. A cover letter should accompany each resume sent out, whether by mail, fax or an online posting. Cover letters are customized to the specific job and employer.

The Goal of a Cover Letter

The goal of your cover letter and resume is to convince an employer to spend the time and energy required to interview you. Therefore your cover letter should not be a superficial overview, a detailed biography or full of self praise. It should aim at supporting your resume in getting you an interview - no more and no less.

Employers are searching for answers to basic questions such as: Can you do the job? Would you be right for the job? Can you bring any other special experiences or skill sets with you? The cover letter can also be a good place to explain away any points of concern or fill in the gaps that may be found in your resume. For example:

  • Why did you change jobs so many times?
  • Why do you want to work overseas - will you commit to long term?
  • Are you able to work in a new enviroment having only worked in one company to date?
  • The resume lists certain managerial roles, but are you able to manage people from a different culture?
  • There is long list of computer languages but have you actually written in them all?

Types of Cover Letters

There are various formats of cover letters for each situation. Every person has their own style but basically you can break them down to the following

Cover Letter
5 types of Cover Letter
  1. Standard cover letter
  2. Response to an advertisement
  3. Cold solicitation
  4. Networking
  5. Follow up/thank you letter

Cover letters should be printed or preferably handwritten on quality paper and include date, title and company name. Begin with Dear Mr. or Ms., last name and end your letter with a simple closing and sign your name legibly.

If you do not have a contact name to write to, address your letter to the Human Resources Department.

Letter Format

You should try and keep the letter as simple as possible while still conveying all the salient points you wish impress on the reader. As a rule, try to keep it down to no more than four paragraphs and should include:

Cover Letter

First paragraph:

  • The desired position
  • Where/how you learned about the position/company
  • Your interest in the position/company

Second/Third paragraph:

  • Describe related experiences and skill sets
  • Explanation of how and why you are qualified for the position
  • Identify something significant about the company
  • Draw parallels between the company and your career objectives

Fourth paragraph:

  • Reiterate your interest in the position and company
  • Include follow up (will call; expect call)
  • Thank them for their time and consideration

Follow Up

Keep copies of cover letters

If you have not heard from an employer within two to three weeks of submitting a resume, it is acceptable to follow up by letter, email of telephone. It is important to bear in mind that although some employers will acknowledge receipt of resumes, others simply do not have time to respond - do not jeopardize your chances by getting upset if you haven’t heard for a while. Keep copies of cover letters for reference when following up with employers.



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