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Why You Need a Cover Letter November 7, 2008

Posted by dapinoyemployee in The Application Process.
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Believe it or not, this simple, one-page letter can sometimes mean the difference between having your resume noticed and getting it thrown into the resume file, where it will gather dust and turn yellow with age.  If you want to send in an application that will be able to compete with others who are targeting the same job, use a cover letter as your means of introducing yourself.

So how can a cover letter help you?  Here are things you should understand about the cover letter:
What exactly is a cover letter?
In the olden days, it was called the application letter, frequently attached to a bio-data, resume or CV.  The cover letter serves as a short introductory piece about you, your skills, work experience, education and training.  It could also be used to include a very short summary of your qualifications. 

So why do you need a cover letter when everything the employer needs to know about you can be found on your resume?  Actually, most employers do not like the idea of going through each and every bio-data, CV or resume that lands on their desk. 

Resumes do not exactly contain the same format and many applicants prefer to use their own unique style in presenting information about themselves.  If you have ever gone through several resumes from at least 10 different people, you’ll understand why it can be boring and time-consuming for any employer to browse all information contained in these resumes.

With a cover letter, an employer can simply take a look at all the important information you can provide and decide within at least 60 seconds if you have the potential or not.

Writing the cover letter
Here are some important things to remember when writing your cover letter:

Customize.
Don’t send a generic cover letter.  Of course, you could save time and printing cost by simply writing a one-size-fits-all letter and then mass mailing it to prospective employers.  However, from the point of view of an employer, you’ll seem like a person who has little or no purpose. 

If you customize your cover letters, you’ll look like you have a goal in mind and are not simply throwing your application to any employer unlucky enough to receive it.  Do this and you’ll leave a lot of things to chance.

What to do: always check the exact designation or title of the job you’re applying for and then use that on your cover letter.  If not, then target a specific department or job that you think will be a match to your qualifications. 

Focus on your skills and qualifications and find out which ones will fit the job opening perfectly.  If you’re applying as a writer for an ad agency, for example, you might want to emphasize your skills in persuasive and creative copy.  If you’re applying for a job as a technical or educational writer, you might want to focus on your mastery of technical writing skills, correct grammar and mastery of certain writing styles instead.

Personalize.
If you can help it, avoid using ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’ as your salutation.  Always find out whom to send the letter to and then spell their name right.  If the information is not available on the website or ad, call the company and ask.  You need to do this to make sure that your cover letter AND attached resume reaches the right person.

Be truthful.
Do not promise what you can’t keep or prove.  Use your cover letter to highlight the things you can do and not those you HOPE you can do.  Furthermore, don’t make false claims on your cover letter.  You’ll be found out.

Keep the letter short.
A cover letter is a one-pager, so make sure all the information you need to say fits in the 8 ½” x 11″ space.  Keep it focused and don’t try to impress with verbal gymnastics and verbose.  Just make sure that you use correct grammar and spelling.

Sending a cover letter through e-mail
Since many of you will probably be getting in touch with prospective employers online, you might think that there’s no need to send a cover letter.  Wrong.  It would help if you write a cover letter for the e-mail message and then use your resume as an attachment.

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