Cover Letters That Open Doors
Do you have to write a cover letter, even when you have a stellar resume?
In the sales process of a career move, a cover letter is the knock on the prospect’s door. It’s the first handshake of the sales call. It’s the "good morning" to the person across the desk.
A good resume is the heart of the sales presentation, and a strong interview closes the deal, but a well written cover letter gets you in the door. No cover letter, or a poor quality letter, is a sure way to keep your resume from so much as a quick glance.
Key to a good letter: Keep it personal
Address your letter to a specific person, using full first and last name with correct spelling whenever possible. Letters that arrive addressed "To Whom It May Concern," "Dear Sir or Madam," or "Dear HR Director," indicate their sender didn’t care enough about the position to find out who is doing the hiring.
Call the company for a name, look it up on the Internet or at the library, or use your personal network. Your research will pay off.
A personal approach also means tailoring the content of your letter to each specific company you contact. A form letter sent to hundreds of employers will be treated like the junk mail it resembles.
Use your research (the company’s website and literature, the library, trade and business periodicals, network contacts) to learn enough to tie your qualifications to an employer’s specific needs.
View our sample cover letters, listed below, to help you get started writing your own.
How to write a first-class cover letter
Plan your cover letter in three parts: the opening, the body, and the close.
The Opening: Immediately grab the reader’s attention with your first sentence. This is not the time for a tired opening: "I am interested in applying for..." Instead, mention the position you want in context of a strong reason the employer should consider you: "My six years of experience on a software development team has prepared me to move into the information technology management position you recently advertised on..."
Then support your first sentence with one or two additional, specific references to your skills and experience.
The Body: Write two short, compelling paragraphs, about three to four sentences each. Here are some tips to guide you:
- Focus on the employer’s needs, not what you expect the organization to do for you.
- Don’t simply rehash your resume. Highlight your qualifications that would be most useful to the organization for this position.
- Use research to closely link your skills and background to the company’s requirements.
- Pull phrases from the position description so your letter will match some of the employer’s language.
- Let a little personality show through. Resumes don’t capture traits such as integrity, persistence, and passion for your work.
The Close: Your concluding paragraph closes the sale. Be professionally assertive in requesting an interview. Communicate conviction and excitement about taking the next step. Let the employer know when you will follow up. Give a specific date — usually within three to five days — and then mark your calendar and be sure to call on that date.
Cover Letter Production 101
Don’t let your cover letter end up discarded because of careless mistakes. Follow these suggestions for producing a clean, inviting, easy-to-read letter:
- Use direct, clear, concise words and complete sentences.
- Choose action verbs and concrete nouns. Avoid vague generalizations, such as, "I’m a great manager."
- Try to vary your word choice.
- Set up your letter in standard business letter format. Remember the colon after the salutation, and close with "Sincerely."
- Keep your paragraphs short, leave lots of white space, and never exceed one page.
- Proofread your letter to perfection: spelling, grammar, punctuation, and spacing. Don’t rely on spell check alone; proofread your letter yourself and ask a friend to read it, too.
Take charge of your cover letters...take charge of your career
Do your cover letters open doors and generate calls? Check out our sample cover letters if you need more guidance in writing your own.
Or, call Laso today to find out how we can help you make your next career move. When you call, ask about the Laso Elite Club membership for IT professionals.
Sample Cover Letters
Download these cover letters to help you get started.
How to impress an HR Manager: sending your cover letter by e-mail
The percentage of human resources managers who prefer email cover letters and resumes continues to grow. So it makes sense to know how to prepare and send your cover letter by email along with your resume (See Easy E-mail Instructions for Resumes).
If you’ve followed the Cover Letter Production 101 tips, your letter is already in a simple business format, with short paragraphs and ample white space. If it isn’t already, convert the letter to a simple font Word document, and avoid italics, underlines, multiple columns, graphics or other special formats.
Put the position title and reference number, if available, in the subject line of your message. Then simply copy and paste your document into the body of your email. If you are working with multiple versions of your letter, double check that you have pasted the correct version for the position.
Send your resume as a Word file attachment unless the employer requests otherwise.
Email the message to yourself first. Check the letter formatting, and open your resume attachment, if you have one, to make sure it opens and is readable. If all looks correct, send the message to the employer. Note the date for followup on your calendar, and call on that day.