Most job-seekers know that a perfectly polished resume is a must when trying to land the job of their dreams. What many job-hunters don’t realize; however, is that creating a great cover letter is equal to, if not more important than, creating a great resume.
A letter that fails to catch the attention of the hiring manager will almost guarantee that the attached resume will not be read. A letter that’s riddled with grammatical errors or is not professional in appearance will likely land the entire application packet in the trash. Here’s how to turn a boring cover letter into a letter that begs to be read.
A Job-Application Letter is not a Resume
No one wants to read a letter of application that simply rehashes the attached resume. What it should do is forecast the resume by providing additional, valuable information that shows how a job-seeker is qualified for the position he or she is seeking.
One Idea Per Paragraph
Each paragraph should present and develop one idea in a unified manner. The first paragraph is the introduction, which should state which position is being sought, where the job-seeker heard about the position and that the writer is applying for this position. The last sentence should briefly state what will be discussed in the remainder of the letter.
The next two paragraphs should be used to explain how the applicant’s education and professional experience make him or her the best person to hire for this position. These paragraphs must center around one unique idea per paragraph, going beyond what’s stated on the resume.
Additional paragraphs may be inserted if necessary; however, the letter should never be more than one page in length. The final paragraph is the conclusion, in which the job-seeker should identify any attached materials such as a resume or licenses. A confident and polite request should be made for an interview. Finally, it is important to explain the best method of contacting the job-seeker, along with the best times and days.
Even the most well-written job application letter may be pushed aside if it does not look professional. Use plenty of white space, with margins of at least one inch. Follow a traditional business letter format, and be sure to place a letterhead at the top of the page.
The letterhead should be clearly identifiable, but never use graphics unless they are necessary. In addition, the letterhead needs to be identical to that on the resume. Single space the document, double space in between paragraphs, and don’t forget to sign the letter.
Don’t Rely on Spell Check
If time permits, the cover letter should be placed aside for a day or two and proofread a second, third or even fourth time. Fresh eyes may pick up mistakes that were previously unnoticed. It always helps to have someone else proofread the document. Do not rely on a computer spell and grammar check; these are handy tools but no substitute for a human reader.