A cover letter, whether sent in an envelope or by email, provides a summary presentation of you as a candidate for the position for which you're applying. The cover letter should summarize your qualifications for that position by highlighting experience and training as they relate to the requirements and "like to haves" of the position as outlined in the job description. A cover letter also provides the employer with an example of your written communication skills.
Like your resumes, your cover letter must be custom-tailored for each position for which you're applying.
Important points to remember when preparing a cover letter are:
- When mailing a resume in response to a job advertisement, generally include a cover letter if the job advertisement requests that one be sent with the resume or if you're submitting your resume via email. Generally, don't include a cover letter with a mailed application if the job posting states specifically that applicants should only send a resume when applying for the position.
- When a cover letter is appropriate, prepare the letter in a clear, concise and accurate manner. Always Proof Read It.
- Begin the cover letter by identifying the position for which you're applying and identifying the source of the job advertisement. This ensures that there is no confusion over which position you are applying for in the event that the employer has more than one open position.
- When summarizing your qualifications for the position, SER suggests using a bulleted list. This helps highlight your qualifications and makes for easier reading.
- The qualifications listed in the cover letter should track the qualifications highlighted in the "summary" section of your resume. Both should, of course, be custom-tailored to the requirements of the specific position for which you're applying.
- Provide all information about yourself that the job advertisement requests. Failure to provide all requested information in the job advertisement may eliminate you from consideration.
Cover Letter Example
Mr. John Doe
Director, Human Resources
11 Sunrise Drive
Reston, VA. 22330
Dear Mr. Doe:
Enclosed please find a copy of my resume in response to your February 13, 2015 advertisement in the Washington Post for an Administrative Assistant.
I am well qualified for this position, as you'll see from my resume, attached. To summarize:
- Over 10 yeas experience as an administrative assistant, including 6 years in positions similar to the one you're seeking to fill.
- Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, including the most recent versions.
- Extensive experience in making travel arrangements and preparing travel vouchers.
- Excellent proof-reading skills.
I look forward to having an opportunity to discuss with you in more detail how my skills and experience would benefit the XYZ Corporation.
Email Cover Letters
The email that transmits an attached resume gives you another opportunity to highlight your qualifications, fulfilling the same function as a cover letter. So, simply present the same basic information about yourself as outlined above in the Cover Letter section.
A few points to remember about email cover letters:
- When emailing a resume, OPEN A NEW EMAIL WINDOW AND IMMEDIATELY ATTACH YOUR RESUME BEFORE WRITING THE EMAIL. That way, you won't forget to attach the resume. Having to send an "Ooops, I forgot the attachment" email does not improve you chances of getting an interview, which at this point are essentially zilch.
- Be sure to address your email exactly as directed.
- If the application instructions state what to include in the email's subject line, follow those instructions exactly. Such instructions may indicate that the employer has set up a filter to forward emails with that subject line to a specific staff person. Using a different subject line may not get your application where it needs to go - not to mention what a demonstration of inability to follow simple instructions does to your chances of getting the interview.
- If the application instructions specify a format for your resume (e.g., Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, etc.) follow those instructions. In the absence of specific instructions, SER recommends that you send your resume as an Adobe PDF file. DO NOT send a resume in a non-standard format, such as Microsoft Works, WordPerfect, etc.; the employer may not have the ability to open such files, plus you've labeled yourself as not quite with the times - not a good thing for a senior job-seeker to do.
Some job announcements ask (or demand) that you state your salary requirements in the cover letter. This is a tough one for which there's no single right answer, other than don't ignore the request.
One approach, if it fits your circumstances and what the employer has asked, is to say something like "My salary requirements are flexible and would depend on the total compensation package."
Or, if you're prepared to accept a certain dollar amount, just say that, but be aware that you've likely set a cap on the amount you'll be offered.
Lowballing to be sure that you don't price yourself out of competition often backfires, as an employer may think you're not up to the task if you're willing to work for so little. Plus, you've greatly reduced your leverage when it comes to negotiating a salary.
There are many online articles about this topic. We've listed a few here.
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