But a cover letter is just as vital. Think of it as giving a girl you admire a box of her favorite chocolate. Sure, you don’t have to, but it’s bound to earn you pogi points with her.
Specifically, a cover letter is your vehicle to:
- Disclose info that may not fit in your resume (like a large employment gap, why you’re changing careers, etc.).
- Make a personal marketing pitch (highlight relevant skills, talents and experience that may get buried in your resume).
- Give a sneak preview of your desirable traits (“sounds like someone I’d like to interview”).
Dos and don’ts of cover letter writing:
The long and short of it.
Cover letters are like TV commercials: They’ve got to grab attention, sell the product (you) and linger on in memory-and they have to do these in just 30 seconds. So keep it between three and five paragraphs, no more than three sentences each. On paper, keep it under one page. For emailed versions, don’t exceed one screen.
How would you feel if you were addressed as “Dear Sir/Madam,” or “To Whom It May Concern”? Warm up to your reader by making discreet inquiries about the recruiting person’s complete name and title (usually a Human Resources officer). For blind or “we’ll-call-you” ads, use “Dear Hiring Manager” instead.
Customize, customize, customize.
What’s worse than omitting a cover letter? Sending a “free size” one to every company you apply with. Would you wear a large dress if you were petite? Or squeeze into an XS if you’re medium size? Make sure your cover letter fits you perfectly. Find out your particular strengths and accentuate them. Replace generic sentences with “branding” statements. Ensure every word stays true to your goal-convincing the recruiter that he should hire only you.
Write it right.
Unlike the telegraphic style of a resume, the cover letter is written in prose-which will either display your command of English and your writing skills, or lack of them. Use the computer’s spell-check function to weed out misspellings. Proofread your work again and again. Then ask someone competent to edit your work, especially for common Pinoy grammatical pitfalls such as subject-verb agreement and tense usage.
Say it right.
It’s a tricky balancing act: How to lend a personal touch without becoming too familiar? How to catch attention without making a fool of yourself? How to promote yourself without boasting? The secret of a commanding cover letter is keeping to the three S’s-simple, straightforward, and sincere. Write in a professional but conversational manner, with none of the “as per your recent advertisement” stuff. Don’t resort to flattery or cliches. Avoid self-aggrandizement by citing specific incidents and numbers.
So how do you know if your cover letter has accomplished its goal? It’s when it succeeds in impressing others, not you.
by Romelda C. Ascutia