If you want to get ahead of the employment line then you should know how to write a professional cover letter. Over the last few years, discussions on the value of a cover letter have come up more frequently. Some recruiters say they believe the cover letter has outlived its purpose while some recruiters believe the cover letter is the most effective way to set up the resume.
The question you have to ask yourself when posturing on writing a cover letter or not is: “Why take a chance?”
Packaging your application with a resume cover letter will cover all your bases in the process. If the recruiter does not recognize the value of a cover letter, the worst that can happen is he or she will bypass yours. But if the recruiter does value a cover letter and your application does not have one, it may be taken as a point against you.
In truth, a well written resume cover letter will greatly influence your chances of landing the all – important first interview. A well written cover letter comes across as a professional cover letter.
What is a resume cover letter?
A cover letter is a document that is packaged along with a proposal. The proposal could be for employment, a bid for a project or a request for services. The objective of the cover letter is to introduce the purpose of the proposer. It should answer the question “Why?” The cover letter can phrase your purpose in a number of ways:
- “Why am I applying for this job opening?”
- “Why am I offering my services to your company?”
- “Why am I the best candidate for the position or the project?”
- “Why should you consider my application over everyone else’s?”
- “Why are my qualifications; experiences and skills, the components your company needs to meet your objectives?”
There are three types of cover letters:
- The Application Letter. This is used when applying specifically for a published job opening.
- The Prospecting Letter. This is used when the applicant is inquiring about the availability of job openings.
- The Networking Letter. This is used when requesting information or assistance in your job search.
In all cases, the challenge for the applicant is writing a cover letter that effectively captures the attention and ultimately the interest of the recruiter. What makes this challenging more daunting is that recruiters manage their time efficiently.
Recruiters peruse through hundreds of employment applications every day. They do not have time to scrutinize every detail in the application. The most experienced recruiters have a system of skimming or scanning through application forms. Many use keywords to identify skills and qualifications that are relevant to the job opening.
The challenge becomes greater if the recruiter comes across your application toward the close of regular office hours. The recruiter is already fatigued; his focus and attention span isn’t what it was early in the day.
Thus, your objective when writing a cover letter is to create one that will immediately answer the question “Why” when the recruiter comes across it.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
One of the most common asked about writing a cover letter is “how long should it be?” Given the reputation of many recruiters, it would be to your best interest to keep the cover letter short. Ideally, one page should suffice. The more important question is what you should include in a cover letter.
The cover letter has five sections. These are as follows:
1. Contact Information
Every cover letter should include your contact information. You would want the recruiter to know who you are in the first few seconds he or she would scan your cover letter.
Experienced recruiters know which information to look for right away. These are the details you should include in your contact information:
- Full Name
- City, State, Postal Code
- Contact Number
- E-mail Address
- LinkedIn Profile
- Twitter Address
The detail that makes today’s cover letter different is the inclusion of social media information. Recruiters want to assess your involvement in social media. They are very particular or LinkedIn and Twitter.
LinkedIn is preferred by recruiters because it is acknowledged as the networking media for professionals. Make sure your online profile in LinkedIn matches your resume.
On the other hand Twitter’s short messaging system is the fastest way to share content. Recruiters view Twitter as the best social media for engaging the market. It gives them a good idea of the issues that interest you.
If you have a website or a blog page, it would be a good idea to include it in the cover letter. It shows the recruiter how invested you are in building your personal brand.
2. Cover Letter Salutation
The salutation plays an important role in the cover letter in that it sets the tone for your content. Your salutation must be formal and appropriate. Avoid using salutations such as “Hi” or “Hello There!” Trying to be casual and friendly will not take your application further. In fact, it may take you two steps back.
Address the recipient with “Dear” and add the title with the surname. Even if you are familiar or previously acquainted with the recruiter, approach the entire application as a professional and use his or her surname.
If the name of the recipient is gender neutral such as “Robin Smith”, do not play the game of probability and indicate a “Mr” or “Ms”. Just write down the complete name with the salutation; for example “Dear Robin Smith”.
Always make it a point to have an addressee or the name of a contact person in your cover letter. There are some job publications that do not include a contact person. It will reflect on you favorably because the recruiter will commend you for taking the time and effort to identify the contact person.
For some companies, they purposely leave out the name of the contact person to test the applicant’s level of interest. It will also highlight your resourcefulness. Don’t take any chances by playing it safe. Go the extra mile and find out the name of the designated contact person. Your effort will place you ahead of those who did not.
3. Body of the Cover Letter
The effectiveness of the cover letter depends on the content of its body. This is where your focus shifts toward getting the interest of the recruiter within the first few lines. The body consists of three sections:
The purpose of the opening paragraph is to explain to the recruiter “Why” you are applying for this particular job. There are two important details that should be mentioned in the opening paragraph:
- How you came across the job. Did you see it in the classifieds or an online job community?
- If you have a referral for the job. If you have a contact; a person who has ties and influence in the company or industry, you should include his or her name in the opening paragraph.
- A referral is a powerful tool that can help you get ahead of others vying for the same job. But before mentioning the contact make sure to get his or her clearance first.
- The recruiter may drop your contact a message and he or she must know what your intentions are for including his or her name in you cover letter.
The second paragraph is for intents and purposes, the real body of the cover letter. Your purpose is to sell your capabilities to the recruiter. The challenge for the applicant is to find a way to summarize his or her experiences, skills, strengths and competencies without pre – empting the resume.
One way to craft the second paragraph is to review your resume then put yourself in the position of the recruiter. Which qualifications in your resume do you believe will generate interest from the recruiter? Think from the perspective of “How will I appear to be desirable to the recruiter?”
Thus, you should customize the content of the second paragraph to the specifications of the job opening. If for example the job opening is for a Business Development Manager, highlight an experience and the skills that correspond to the requirements and description of the position.
A good way to get this done and stay within the one – page limit is to use bullet points when enumerating your skills.
This is the closing section of the cover letter. Content for the third paragraph should include the following:
- Extend your appreciation to the recruiter and the company for taking the time and reviewing your resume.
- Inform the recruiter of your next steps. Advise the recruiter if you plan to call periodically to check on the status of your application.
- Send your well – wishes to the recruiter and the company.
In the third paragraph, it is very important not to appear presumptuous. Write it from the point of view of someone who is aware that the industry is on a level playing field.
The closing plays a similar role as the salutation. You want to give the recipient a lasting impression of who you are. Therefore you must likewise find a closing which is professional, appropriate and acceptable to the recipient.
Closings like “See Ya”, “Check You Out Soon”, “xoxoxo” or “Love and Kisses” are not appropriate or acceptable.
Here is a short list of appropriate and professional closings:
- Sincerely Yours.
- Respectfully Yours,
- Very Truly Yours,
- Best Regards,
- Warm Regards,
- Kind Regards,
- Yours Truly,
5. Your Signature
Before affixing your signature, make sure your complete name has been indicated below your closing.
If you have many signatures, use the one most utilized when signing contracts. Use a sign pen when placing your signature.
The Structure and Attributes of the Cover Letter
When preparing your cover letter be aware of the following guidelines in its look and format:
- Structure: Left Aligned or Justified are the more acceptable structures for the cover letter.
- Font Style: Calibri, Times New Roman or Arial. Choose font styles that are easily readable, unpretentious and professional looking.
- Font Size: 12 for Times New Roman and 13.5 for Arial and Calibri.
- Spacing: 1” margins all around; single spaced.
Overall, the cover letter is an important document to include in your application. More than just a formal introduction about you, the cover letter also lends personality to your resume.
It is a professional way to package your application and gives the recruiter a good insight on your desire to acquire the available job.
You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by attaching a cover letter to your resume.
Sample of a Professional Cover Letter
21 April 2016
Mr. Anthony P. Friedman
New York 10001
Mr. Virgil C. Stanley
Human Resources Manager
ABC Stock Brokers and Associates
New York City, New York 10001
Dear Mr. Stanley,
I am writing to you to express my interest in applying for the position of Head of Marketing and Research which was officially published in the April 14th issue of the New York Times. The job opening was first relayed to me by Mr. Franklin Williams of YYZ Industrial who is a long – time client of ABC.
Since 2009 I have been the Lead Market Researcher for CDE Equities. I am a certified instructor of Technical Analysis specializing in Dow Theory, Elliott Wave Theory, Fibonacci Ratios, Mathematical Indicators and Moving Averages. My Master’s degree in Economics rounds out my qualification in Fundamental Analysis. Mr. Williams and YYZ were my direct accounts at CDE Equities. I am confident my qualifications will meet the requirements of the job.
Thank you for taking the time in reviewing my application to your highly respected and esteemed company.
I remain hopeful that my application will merit your consideration and approval.
Very truly yours,
(Signature over printed name)
Anthony P. Friedman