By Kate Lorenz,
It's the age-old question from job seekers: Must every resume be accompanied by a cover letter? The answer, according to professional career counselors, is a resounding yes. And not just any cover letter. It must be tailored to the specific job to which you are applying.
Experts say that it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. If a hiring manager sees you don't have a cover letter upon first perusing your application, it's possible you could lose all chances of being contacted for that job.
Here are some tips for a foolproof cover letter.
Cover the basics.
Your letter should be brief, easy to read, and always include your full name, address and phone number in case your cover letter becomes separated from your resume. Don't forget to proofread to avoid spelling errors and typos. Make sure the job title and employer name are correct, too.
Avoid using "Dear Hiring Manager" and find out the name of the company's human resources contact or recruiter. You can find this information by logging on to the company's Web site or calling the main phone number and asking a receptionist for the name and title of their corporate recruiter. Once you have a contact name, experts recommend using the person's formal title such as "Mr.," "Ms." or "Mrs."
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State which job you are applying for in the very first paragraph and make sure to include other specific details such as a job ID number (if one was provided) and where you heard about the opening. The reason for this detail is simple: Many recruiters are responsible for multiple openings within their companies and must be able to determine which job your application is targeting. And if you were referred to the company by an employee, be sure to mention this in your letter as many companies have employee referral programs.
One of the objectives of a good cover letter is to make a personal connection with the reader. Gone are the days when you could simply change the name of the company in your salutation, attach it to your resume and fire it off to the employer. Recruiters see right through these types of letters and recognize them for what they are - a lazy person's attempt to find a job.
Do some legwork.
A winning cover letter will require some research into the company's history and recent accomplishments. It should show the reader that you have some knowledge of their company and that you made an informed decision when you decided to apply for a job at their company.
Show your worth.
When writing your letter, keep the requirements of the job in mind and address them specifically. Remember, it's not what the company can do for you; it's what you can do for the company that counts.
Get the interview.
Go ahead and tell the hiring manager you want that interview. Express that your cover letter and resume are just the tip of the iceberg and you look forward to a face-to-face conversation.
If you are still unsure about where to begin when writing a winning cover letter, you can find samples of dynamic cover letters online and at bookstores.