Do I really need a cover letter?
Given the constant changes in technology, sometimes you wonder whether or not to put a cover letter with your resume. How long should the cover letter be? Should you address it to anyone in particular?
The answer is to the first question is yes, unless you are explicitly asked not to, always include a cover letter. Most career websites agree that a cover letter is as important, sometimes more so, than your resume. It’s often the first thing your potential employer will see and counts as your first impression. Spelling mistakes, typos, listing the wrong job or company will land your beautiful resume in the trash before it’s even opened.
When you do submit your cover letter, there are many ways to do it. Some online applications allow you to upload a separate word document, or copy the text into their weirdly tiny textbox. Others want the cover letter and resume in the same document. While irksome, it is important to follow these directions, as failure to do so makes it easy to discard your resume before someone has even read it just to make their stack shorter.
If no specific instructions are given you have a few options. If you send in your resume in an email attachment, you can put your cover letter in the body of the email. You can also send it as a document, and just put a note in the email body. Make sure that the styles of your cover letter and resume match – use the same font, formatting, bullet type, etc.
Should you address it to anyone in particular?
If you can find out the name of the hiring manager, you should address the letter to her/him. Sometimes this can be done with a quick call to the company, or a little internet research, and shows good initiative. If you can’t find out the name don’t despair, a “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Madam/Sir” will suffice.
What should my cover letter address?
Job listings usually use specific descriptions and keywords to describe the job and their ideal candidate. Use these same words in your cover letter, but apply them to your own experience.
If the job listing has XYZ as a requirement, tell them how you used XYZ in your last job to boost productivity/sales/etc. Then relate your past experience to what you could bring to their company.
How long should the cover letter be?
It’s important to keep a cover letter on the shorter side so it gets read. A good length is three paragraphs. In the first introduce yourself, explain where you currently work and your experience. The second paragraph should demonstrate how your experience meets the needs of the job for which you are applying. Then the third wrap it ups, says you are look forward to meeting with them and refers them to your attached résumé.
Should I write a new cover letter for each job?
Ideally, yes. But if you have a great cover letter, you can adapt it to the job listings. Just make sure you change all the company details. Then create new sentences based on the keywords in the new job ad.
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