Double-digit unemployment means that competition for available jobs is tougher than ever. In a time when a single job opening can yield literally hundreds of responses, what can you do to help move your resume to the top of the stack? Include a cover letter – always. Why? The reasons are simple. A cover letter allows you to:

  • personalize your resume;
  • grab an employer’s interest by emphasizing your strengths and assets;
  • explain why you’re the ideal candidate for the job;
  • solicit an interview.

In fact, many interviewers won’t even consider a resume submitted without a cover letter.

Cover All Your Bases

Use the following tips to create a well-crafted cover letter that strengthens your resume and helps you stand out from the crowd:

  • Make sure it’s error-free. A simple typo or grammatical error in your cover letter can send your resume directly to the “circular file.” Ask a detail-oriented friend or family member to review the document before you send it.
  • Pay attention to visual appeal. Make the letter eye-catching and easy to read by formatting spacing, paragraph length, and margins. If you have to “cut and paste” the cover letter to submit it, double-check the formatting before sending.
  • Avoid generic salutations. Address your cover letter to a particular person by name, making sure that the spelling and title of the individual are correct. Make a phone call to verify information, if necessary.
  • Keep it concise. Employers don’t have time to read a novel about you, so keep the note to a single page. Focus on why the job interests you and what you bring to the table.
  • Show you’ve done your homework. State particular knowledge you have of the company’s business, or comment on a current issue related to the industry or organization’s operation.
  • Explain what you can do for the employer. To grab the reader’s interest, you must convey the “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me?). So take a walk in the employer’s shoes and present evidence that shows you can: make or save money; save time; improve process efficiency; effectively assume and/or delegate responsibility. Specify and quantify results whenever possible.
  • Customize the content. Examine the primary requirements of the job posting, then highlight one or two aspects of your resume that key into the employer’s needs. Incorporate some of the employer’s messages and language to demonstrate your understanding of the job, the employer, and the industry.
  • Address potential concerns. A cover letter allows you to address any issues that may give a hiring manager pause, such as gaps in employment. Briefly explain the reasons you were unemployed and how you kept your skills up-to-date during the gap.
  • Be honest. While you always want to put your best foot forward, never stretch the truth about your accomplishments. Even minor misrepresentations can backfire during a reference or background check.
  • Request action. Convey your confidence by directly (yet courteously) asking for an interview. Be sure to state specific times and dates when you will call to arrange the interview, allowing at least three business days from the date the letter and resume are sent.
  • Use the formal closing “Sincerely.” Type your name below and then add your signature.


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