What makes for a successful cover letter?

  • shoelessj

    Posts: 511

    May 07, 2012 9:15 PM GMT
    First, how important is a cover letter when you're sending a resume? Any tips on how to make it effective? Can it be more than one page long? Any phrases to avoid? I have a job in mind that i really want, that I think i'd be a great fit for, but which dozens of others will apply for and i want to convey that to the person reading my cover letter. Good news though is that the person in charge of the office - but not the HR person - invited me to apply for the position.

    Thanks.
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    May 07, 2012 9:25 PM GMT
    A good cover letter is important.

    Do not do a canned cover letter that you just print with your resume. Customize it for each job you apply for.

    And then - everything that Clay said. Remember to be positive and if you have some specific skill or reason that you believe makes you the best qualified for the job, use this letter to briefly re-emphasize it.

    Best of luck.
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    May 07, 2012 9:29 PM GMT
    It's your introductory sales pitch. Do it any way you feel if you were cold calling the company.
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    May 07, 2012 9:29 PM GMT
    I didn't know that cover letters were necessary. I would think that companies are already over burdened with resumes, and a cover letter would just take too much time to read. Some day I'm going to retire and look for a new job. I guess I'd better catch up on what's expected.
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    May 07, 2012 9:30 PM GMT
    Give one paragraph stating the positive things about their specific company and what attracted you to them.
    Then in the next paragraph outline how you would be a good fit for them AND bring something extra to the table.

    Basically you want to blow smoke up their ass and yours in equal measures.
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    May 07, 2012 9:32 PM GMT
    Buddyboy938 saidI didn't know that cover letters were necessary. I would think that companies are already over burdened with resumes, and a cover letter would just take too much time to read. Some day I'm going to retire and look for a new job. I guess I'd better catch up on what's expected.


    The rules keep changing. If you are serious, start building a network with Linked-In.

    By the way, I'm a college business instructor - so I teach these classes and work closely with our job placement coordinator who is always in touch with employers - so I am just going by the latest stats and info she gave. I always have her come and do a presentation in my classes.

    There are things I used to think were unnecessary, but it turns out in today's world are expected. For instance, I never thought it was necessary to have an Objective on my resume. Apparently, now it is the norm.

  • LJay

    Posts: 11612

    May 07, 2012 9:41 PM GMT
    I'm of the school that a cover letter should be brief, but VERY well organized. Among other things, it should show an employer that you are capable of well written business correspondence...absolutely to the point, clean and formally correct.
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    May 07, 2012 9:59 PM GMT
    I would definitely include a cover letter. It should convey that you've done a little homework about the company and position offered, and why you think you fit there.

    Write in the active voice and make sure someone (or some people) proof it for you.

    Keep it short! If written well, the letter will be less than a page anyway.

    Good luck!
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    May 07, 2012 10:04 PM GMT
    onaquest said
    Buddyboy938 saidI didn't know that cover letters were necessary. I would think that companies are already over burdened with resumes, and a cover letter would just take too much time to read. Some day I'm going to retire and look for a new job. I guess I'd better catch up on what's expected.


    The rules keep changing. If you are serious, start building a network with Linked-In.

    By the way, I'm a college business instructor - so I teach these classes and work closely with our job placement coordinator who is always in touch with employers - so I am just going by the latest stats and info she gave. I always have her come and do a presentation in my classes.

    There are things I used to think were unnecessary, but it turns out in today's world are expected. For instance, I never thought it was necessary to have an Objective on my resume. Apparently, now it is the norm.



    It depends on the industry as well. Being a hiring/manager and I dealt with a lot of recruiters, agencies...if the candidate is fresh of 'school' 'graduate' then yes I would definitely want to see a cover letter and how they would translate their skills into the job function. They need to sale themselves if they do not have the experience. However, if the candidate has been in the same job industry and is applying within that industry and job function, I would seldom look at the cover letter it would go in the trash can. I looked more closely at the resume and how it can fit the job requirement.

    Please remember that hiring managers have limited time and a plethora of resumes. Also, I can tell you how many times when I spoke with the candidate about his resume and asked in detail all past experiences, job functions, process etc. prior to being invited for an in house face to face, most candidates fail because of:

    (1) They could not recollect about a specific project, product that they worked on all though is listed on their resume..even if it was 2 years ago.. Anything you place on your resume is fair game - so be prepared.

    (2) They had no clue of the company, product or service which they applied for . When asked why they wanted to work for XYZ company, most did not even have an enthusiast response or knew the process or product.

    (3) When having the phone screen interview which is first impression - try using a landline or ensure that your cell phone reception is more than adequate. I can tell you how many time the response was choppy, the line got disconnected, and it was frustrating to say the least.

    Just some pointers-
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    May 07, 2012 10:07 PM GMT
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  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    May 07, 2012 10:16 PM GMT
    As others have said - it is a great way to introduce yourself to your prospective employer and shows that you have committed some time to the application (rather than just submitting a resume). Having been on numerous interview panels and assessing applications,There is nothing worse than seeing an application which hasnt had much effort put into it. I would definitely restrict it to one page however. Working in government the bulk of the work is done in addressing selection criteria but I won't digress any further.
    Good luck icon_smile.gif
  • shoelessj

    Posts: 511

    May 08, 2012 8:26 PM GMT
    Thanks guys! These all have helped. I appreciation your help here. I've been whittling down the best parts of my letter to make it under one page.
  • shoelessj

    Posts: 511

    Jun 01, 2012 12:23 AM GMT
    an update to anyone interested: 3 weeks later, i got an interview for the job i posted about. was interviewed by 4 people, 2 were younger women who seemed charmed by me, another was taking notes and checking her blackberry and didn't much look up from the table. interview lasted less than a half hour though. they said 280 sent in resumes and about 12-14 were called in for interviews. well, we'll see. thanks for the advice again, fellas.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jun 01, 2012 12:25 AM GMT
    A successful applicant.