Yes, you have to write a cover letter if you want to increase the value of your résumé and application to the prospective employer! The cover letter professionalizes your application for employment. It serves as a bridge to introduce your résumé when you are not there in person to submit it. The cover letter permits you to personalize the résumé and thereby create a relationship that motivates the employer to read your résumé with greater interest and attention.
The tone of your cover letter is the most important aspect of its content. A natural tone is only achieved when the letter is truly yours, not something you copied from a book. Use sample letters only as models.
There are three content areas that you must address in introducing your résumé. These three areas correspond to the three (sometimes four) paragraphs of your cover letter
- Make the Match
- Make the Case
- Make the Close
Paragraph 1: Make the match, and link yourself to the employer.
Prepare to write a customized cover letter for each employment opportunity. Address the issues of "Why this employer," "Why your interest in this job," "What common objectives," and "What trusted referrals." Make the cover letter personal by using words that convey confidence, eagerness, freshness, optimism, friendliness, and energy.
If you have been referred by someone known to the company, use their name in your opening paragraph, and indicate why the contact referred you to that particular company or position opening.
- "I am responding to the (blank position) recently posted on (name the website or publication that listed the job). I have recently completed a (your degree or training) and look forward to applying my preparation in fulltime work in the (field)."
- "My (friend, neighbor, teacher) suggested I contact you regarding a possible opening in the (department). I am a recent graduate in (your major related to the department opening), and I am eager to start working full-time in the field.
Paragraph 2: Make the case, conveying energy combined with keywords from the job description.
The cover letter introduces your résumé. Do not repeat the general content of your résumé in the cover letter. Rather, this paragraph or paragraphs should point to the skills and experience in your résumé that relate to the target position — point to, but do not repeat. Leave the details for the résumé. If you are able to make a compelling case for your candidacy in this section, the employer will look at your résumé for confirmation of your claims.
Examples that convey energy and incorporate keywords from the job description:
- "I enjoy the challenge of working with clients to build their confidence."
- "I thrive in competitive situations and love new ideas that improve my results."
- "I look forward to contributing my experience in organizing community events."
- "I love to learn computer applications and use them in customizing presentations."
- "I enjoyed two student teacher assignments in Title I classrooms."
Paragraph 3: Make the close by calling for action and closing the sale.
The last paragraph is the "closing" paragraph in two ways:
The last paragraph "closes" the letter. You want to maintain a confident tone while putting the customary closing on your letter.
In the last paragraph, you suggest you want the reader to look at your résumé, give it positive consideration, and schedule you for a job interview. Also, state what your own next action will be. The task is similar to standing up at the close of an interview. Everything has been said; now it remains to exit the process looking like a winner by extending the verbal equivalent of a firm handshake and friendly eye contact.
Avoid making comments in your closing paragraph that are beyond your control, such as "I will call you", especially if you do not have direct dial privileges to the person you have addressed. Instead, suggest "I will call your office." Do not make promises you are not sure you will be able to keep.
Examples of cover letter closing paragraphs:
- "I am enclosing my résumé for your review. I hope that it will be possible to schedule an interview soon. My telephone number and email address are provided below for your convenience."
- "I understand that (employer) will be conducting recruitment interviews (where/when). Please include me on the list of candidates to be scheduled. I look forward to talking with you or your representatives about this exciting position."
Proofread Your Cover Letter
Naturally, your cover letter needs to be absolutely free of spelling errors. Proofread several times and find an ally to proofread after you. Try to pace your applications in a way that permits you to proofread your documents a day after you create them. The Career Center and The Writing Center can also help you proofread your business letters.