Dear Sam is Samantha Nolan
Dear Sam: I think I have a pretty good resume, but I have no idea where to start when writing a cover letter. Is it necessary to submit a cover letter when applying for a job? I'd prefer to submit just my resume, so I don't have to write a cover letter for every job I am interested in. I'm finding I don't apply for some positions as I can't get over the stumbling block of writing the cover letter to accompany my resume. Help! - Tony
Dear Tony: A cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself to a prospective employer, expand on and personalize your resume and highlight how your skills and experiences will fulfill the employer's needs. A cover letter should be a key part of every application, regardless of whether it is requested. The letter should engage the hiring manager and propel him or her to read your resume.
You should not have to create a new cover letter for each job you are interested in. If you have defined your objective within your resume, you know what you want to do, who you are marketing your candidacy to and what language will attract his or her interest. You will use this information as a guide to develop your cover letter. When you take time to understand what triggers your target audience and incorporate that content into your application materials, your resume and cover letter will not need to be modified each time you apply for a position.
Keep in mind that a cover letter not only expresses your interest in the company and/or position, but also gives the employer the opportunity to observe your attentiveness to detail, spelling, grammar and quality of written communication. While you might have heard stories of employers not looking at cover letters, I have heard that many hiring managers focus heavily on the cover letter as a window into the style of the candidate.
When writing your cover letter, there are many strategies you can employ in the development and organization of the content. Here are a few guidelines:
Open the letter noting your key qualifications and the position of interest. Use the first paragraph to capture the recipient's attention and make him or her want to read further.
Use the center section of your cover letter to explore your experiences, successes and skills that support your performance. Oftentimes, I use bullet points to focus the hiring manager's attention on the most important pieces of information, which also helps to break up a heavy-looking one-page letter. Bullet points also provide a quick way to tailor your cover letter to a specific opportunity, should that be necessary.
Close with an action-oriented statement. Do not take the passive approach and wait for a hiring manager to call you. Of course, if the posting says no calls, don't call; but most of the time, a follow-up call is appropriate to reiterate your interest.
Keep it brief. Generally cover letters should be no more than one page and include ample white space to facilitate ease of readability. However, don't make it so brief that at quick glance, it looks like you aren't bringing anything to the table.
Do all you can to obtain the name of the hiring manager and address your cover letter accordingly. When all else fails, address the letter to "Dear Hiring Manager."
Use the same heading from your resume in order to present a clean and professional package. Don't forget to sign your letter if you are sending a hard copy.
Take a look at the cover letter presented here. It engages the reader by immediately introducing the candidate's qualifications with an attractive format that pulls the reader's eye through the main section of the letter, and it supports the claims made in the letter and resume.
As you can see, a cover letter serves a much higher purpose than you might have thought by capturing increased interest in your candidacy.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at email@example.com . For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit www. ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).