Monday, April 23, 2012

Cover Letters: How to get started and what to say

I often help many clients with their resumes, either for people looking for a new full-time job with a different company or a different industry, or for up-and-coming artists seeking additional work to help fund their music career.  A resume makeover can help a job seeker land an interview and keep their resume out of the trash can.  In addition to the resume, it is typically required to include a cover letter (Note: an email message does not count as a cover letter, but you can attach the cover letter to a short businesslike email message introducing your cover letter and resume).  So what goes in a cover letter?

First, the formalities:  your name and contact info preferably in letterhead format, the date, the name of the hiring manager/his or her job title/company name/company mailing address, a salutation addressing the hiring manager directly.  Do not use "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam."  Do whatever you can to find out theactual name of the department's hiring manager or the human resources representative who will be receiving your resume and cover letter and address it directly to that person.  Also, remember this is a business letter, so your salutation should end with a colon instead of a comma which is only used in personal letters.

Next, a cover letter typically consists of three to four concise paragraphs, with the first paragraph stating your interest in the specific position (list the job reference # if it has one along with the job title), and how you heard about the job (i.e. their web site, an online job board, a networking contact, etc.).

The second paragraph should outline how your experience and skills line up with the requirements and qualifications of the job, while briefly siting a specific example of something you've done in your past experience that demonstrates one of the main skills required for the job.

If necessary, an additional paragraph can be used to briefly describe something else about you that shows you would be a good fit for the job or the company.

Finally, in the last paragraph you should always show some assertiveness, indicating your expectation of a job interview and how they can contact you to set up that interview.  For example, you might would say:
I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how I can contribute to [company or department name] as the next [job title].  I can be contacted at [your phone #] to schedule an interview.  Thank you for your consideration.
The cover letter is your opportunity to show that you have excellent writing skills and to demonstrate why you should be considered for an interview.  Always proofread your cover letter several times before sending.

For assistance and critiques on cover letters and resumes, contact Lori at paNASH Style.

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