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A cover letter and a resume are both tools for obtaining a job; however, each serves a different purpose. The resume shows your work history, job skills, education and career goals. The cover letter is an introduction that provides pertinent information about yourself and why you should be considered for the position. Both documents require you to introduce yourself. Although the cover letter should be formal, the resume is more structured for introduction.
Create your resume with your job history, education, special skills and career goals. Each of these sections is part of introducing yourself; however, in a resume, you typically don't provide a persuasive introduction. Simply list your name, address, telephone number and email address at the top of the resume. Enter this information into a header if you are using a program such as Microsoft Word. The header repeats the information on each page. If the employer prints a copy of your resume, subsequent pages have your contact information. Customize the header to only show your name so that your entire address is not shown on subsequent pages.
Create a cover letter that is customized to the organization you are applying to. The cover letter is the place for a more persuasive tone as you introduce yourself. The letter should show more about your personality and a sense of why you consider yourself a good fit for the position. Within the slightly less formal cover letter, you still must follow a business letter format. The beginning of the cover letter should explain why you are writing, who you are and the position you are seeking. You can personalize this a bit; however, you must still show yourself professionally. If your resume has your formal name such as Charles and you go by Chuck, you can say this in the cover letter. You can also state why you are interested in the position, which you wouldn't do in the resume. Show your enthusiasm and how your particular skills will fit. Be careful though to show your enthusiasm and not tell the employer why it needs you. Consider the difference between, "I believe my skills are a good match for the position" with "I know you need somebody like me."
Write the remainder of the cover letter by describing your qualifications for the job, personal accomplishments and skills. Do not be heavy-handed with the descriptions, but give the employer a sense of who you are. An example of a pertinent detail about yourself might be, "I am a long distance runner, and I have the same work values of preparation, practice and endurance." This statement shows a lot about who you are and will likely have the potential employer decide to review your resume that has your formal work history and education.
Follow the instructions for submission as requested. Some employers request a specific subject line with the job title or requisition number, or you might be requested to paste your resume in an email instead of attaching it. Make sure to proofread both the cover letter and the resume for typos, missing data and formatting issues. These small details are also part of introducing yourself to a prospective employer. You wouldn't walk into an interview wearing shorts and smoking a cigarette, and you don't want your cover letter and resume to ruin your opportunity by introducing yourself poorly.
Try to find a specific person to send your cover letter and resume to. This makes the contact more personal.
Do not write the same way you do on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Emoticons, acronyms and incomplete sentences will likely not get you a call-back for an interview.
Debbie McRill went from managing a Texas Department of Criminal Justice office to working for Compaq and Hewlett-Packard as a technical writer and project manager in 1997. Debbie has also owned her own businesses and understands both corporate and small business challenges. Her background includes Six Sigma training, and an Information Development career with journalism and creative writing as her passion.