Employers often receives hundreds, maybe even thousands of applications for each position they want to fill. If you are among the thousands of applicants, how do you ensure your application gets short-listed and not discarded? Writing targeted, employer-specific and effective cover letters is one proven way to do it. Your cover letter is a powerful tool that differentiates your application, provided it is well-written.
Cover letters are letters of introduction. They work in combination with your resume and other documents in the application and give an indication of your qualifications and experience in relation to the position. Your cover letter is usually the first point of interaction between you and the prospective employer, which is why it is essential that cover letters are written with careful consideration. In many cases, the order in which the employer reads the applications is cover letter, resume and other supporting documents. So, if the cover letter does not impress him, he may not even bother to look further, even if your resume is stellar.
An effective cover letter should be engaging, employer- or position-specific and well-written. It should describe why you are interested in the position and what qualifications or experience makes you a good fit. It should outline your relevant experience or education and also reflect your enthusiasm and willingness to learn. You can also take the opportunity to highlight a special skill or quality you possess that would be an asset for a candidate in that position. A cover letter is also where you can sometimes make up for lack of experience or education, by explaining how you would still be a good choice because of other strengths. If the employer requires you to provide a suitable date for an interview, or your salary expectations, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to mention those details.
When there is a pile of resumes on a prospective employer's desk, a personalized, tailored cover letter is more likely to get his attention. Since the cover letter summarizes your experiences, qualifications and interests and points out what specific skills make you the right pick for the job, it makes the employer's job easier. Resumes follow a more rigid structure and a specific format, so cover letters can do what your resume may not be able to, which is, reflect your personality, motivations and attitude. You could express your eagerness to learn or take on challenges. You could mention a particular example from an earlier employment where you exceeded goals. These are the highlights in your career that may not pop out from your resume, but they will be easily visible in your cover letter. The employer also gets an idea of your information organizing and written communication skills, your attention to detail and your confidence.
If possible, find out the name of the person in charge of the position and address the cover letter to her. If this is not possible, then use the title of the person. "Creative Director" or "Web Editor" is better than "Hiring Manager" or "To whom it may concern." Make sure there are no typos, spelling or grammatical errors. You could also mention the best times and the best ways to contact you.
Some employers strictly specify not to send cover letters. Some have specific formats in which the cover letters should be written. So be sure to read the application instructions carefully before applying. The quickest way to land yours in the waste basket is to disregard instructions. Do not make the cover letter too wordy or long. It should be a brief summary of your experience and qualifications highlighting your key strengths or achievements that apply to the particular position. Although a cover letter is an opportunity to express your strengths, goals and motivations, be sure to choose your language carefully and keep the cover letter professional