March 26, 2012
What a cover letter can still do for you
Hiring professionals are divided about cover letters. Some don’t read them. Others do.
Because job hunters don’t know which camp their application will land in, most career advisers recommend including cover letters.
Brad Justice, a Kansas City small-business owner who sells office furniture as a profession, has for years pursued his avocation of counseling job hunters and sales reps.
Put him in the cover-letter fan camp. He thinks cover letters are “infinitely more important than the resume,” and he devoted a chapter to “cover letters that sell” in his new book, “The Art of Getting Hired.”
It’s easier to let your personality and communication talents shine in a cover letter than in a formatted resume, he says.
Remember that the goal of cover letters and resumes isn’t just to get you hired. The goal is to spark interest and get invited to interviews.
Among his tips:
Your cover letter should be four or five succinct paragraphs — long enough to provide specific details but short enough to sustain interest.
Say something nice about the organization in the first paragraph and display some knowledge of the company.
Tell why hiring you would benefit the organization. Be specific. Don’t waste space citing your GPA, past honors or other activities. Your resume has those details.
Point out the part of your work history that’s most relevant. Help the hirer understand your transferable skills.
Close by saying you’re looking at several opportunities and create a sense of urgency by asking for a response.
Other advocates of cover letters say they’re useful for dropping names and for mentioning key associations in the company, as long as they’re important and relevant.
Also, it’s OK to send a cover letter in several ways: Paste it in the body of your emailed resume, choose job board options to attach it to your resume, mail it through the post office or fax it.
You can’t make someone read it, but you can increase the chances of getting noticed.
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