How important is the job cover letter? Well, how important is a first impression? The answer to both questions is the same; very important, because your resume cover letter is the first impression, and first impressions count. Without an effective cover letter as the first impression, you most likely will not have chance for a second impression which is the resume. The sole purpose of the job cover letter is to create interest or ‘whet the appetite’ of your prospective employer.
Look at it this way. The resume is the skeleton or framework of your accomplishments and work history. The interview puts flesh on the skeleton and ties together the framework. And the cover letter creates a personality or a connection for the interviewer or employer to bridge the resume towards an interview. Simply stated, a resume cover letter is vital in order to separate your self from the crowd.
So how do you write an effective resume cover letter? The basic points you want to include are the following:
- Most importantly, keep it simple; no less than three paragraphs, and no longer than a page
- Be specific for which position or job you are applying. Mention this at the beginning or your cover letter
- Say how you became aware of the opportunity
- Indicate why you want the position
- Briefly explain what you can contribute to the company
- Highlight an aspect of your experience that best matches the job opportunity
- Only ‘drop a name’ of someone you know if it’s appropriate
On the flip side, there are definitely some points you don’t want to incorporate in your cover letter, and those include, but are not limited to the following:
- Avoid bright colored paper, or unusual font
- Steer clear from sounding desperate
- Sending the letter or correspondence to the wrong person
- Shun misspellings or typographical errors and incorrect grammar
- Stay away from trying to be clever or cute in your wording
- Being negative towards your current or previous employer
- Avoid revealing you have been out of work for an extended time
- Keep away from the topic of salary in any form including negotiable
Remember that the person reviewing your ‘first impression’ wants to see or ‘hear’ something different, exciting, or unique. Typically they are inundated with ‘job seekers’ who all sound the same in that they are either all boring, or all ‘the greatest thing since sliced bread’. The key to an effective resume cover letter is to separate yourself from the crowd in a positive light. You want to be the strawberry on top of the Cheerio’s, not just another Cheerio in a bowl of Cheerios.