Resume Cover Letter Guidelines
by Ron Kurtus (updated 17 December 2021)
When you send your resume to a company as part of an effort to obtain a job interview, you should always include a cover letter. This not only introduces you in a professional manner, but it also summarizes key points in your resume.
There are important items to include in the format of the letter, as well as in its content.
Questions you may have include:
- What is the purpose of this letter?
- What format should the letter have?
- What content should be included?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Purpose of letter
When answering a newspaper employment ad or online employment listing, you typically send in your resume along with a cover letter.
The cover letter introduces you to the reader, explains your interest in a position, and tries to get the reader interested enough to examine your resume. Then your resume should give enough information to get you an interview, where you can demonstrate your skills and qualifications face-to-face with the interested personnel at the company.
Your cover letter should be only one page in length. Limit the letter to three or four paragraphs that are focused on the reader's needs. Although it is difficult to do, try to avoid telling about too much about your employment desires or needs.
Use quality bond paper, of the standard 8x11 inches size. Ideally, the paper should be the same as your resume. Since the resume and letter will often be photocopied for distribution to managers, avoid colored or fancy paper that will not copy well.
You want to give the impression that you are a quality worker and show care in what you do. Carelessness in the cover letter can doom you.
The letter should be typed on your word processor. Spell-check the letter and have someone else read it for proper grammar, content and spelling.
If possible, write to someone specific, making sure you correctly spell the name and title. Never send a letter "To whom it may concern" or to Mr/Ms. If you don't know a person's name, a good choice is to address the letter to Employment Manager or Human Resources Manager. In fact, you can even use that title in your first line: "Dear Employment Manager."
Make sure the organization name and address are correct and complete.
Close your letter with "Sincerely," and your name. Other endings can seem too informal or not appropriate.
Sign your name with a black pen. Using an ink pen is classy, especially for management positions. A black ball point pen is acceptable, especially if it looks like ink. A blue ball point pen doesn't look too good, but can be acceptable. Never use any other colors if you want to make a positive impression.
Your letter should consist of an opening paragraph, one or two middle paragraphs, and a closing paragraph.
This is a short paragraph of a few sentences. State your interest and purpose for writing to the organization, tell how you heard about the position, and then state why you feel you are qualified for the position.
An example opening paragraph is:
"In response to your advertisement in the Daily Journal, I would like to offer my services to fill your Customer Service vacancy. I am confident you will find my experience and abilities qualify me for the position."
In one or two paragraphs, give information how you feel you can contribute to the organization. If you can, use terms that are industry-specific. You can use the job description as a guide for terms the employer uses.
You want to focus on the company and show your interest in their services and enthusiasm for the industry.
Briefly explain your skills, experience and educational background that you would bring to the organization and show your qualifications for the job. You don't want to repeat your resume, but rather highlight the most important points.
An example middle paragraph is:
"I believe that my diverse background and experience are a perfect match for this position. As an Inside Sales Assistant at Lakeview Sportswear, I work extensively with various clients individually and in groups. My knowledge of products and services similar to your will help in filling your needs for a Customer Service representative."
Thank the reader for his or her time and consideration. Request that the employer contact you to schedule an interview or explain that you will call/email to follow-up your inquiry.
"My motivation, energy, creativity and excellent customer skills have allowed me to be very successful in my career. I strongly believe that my education and experience make me an ideal candidate for this position. Thank you very much for your time and your consideration. Please contact me at your earliest convenience concerning this position."
You should always include a cover letter along with your resume when seeking to obtain a job interview. The letter can introduce you in a professional manner, state your qualifications and interest in their company, and summarize key points in your resume. There are important items to include in the format of the letter, as well as in its content.
Make a good first impression
Resources and references
How to Make a Resume: Secrets Your Employer Won’t Tell You - Jack Milgram
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Students and researchers
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Résumé Cover Letter Guidelines