The importance of targeting your resume to a specific employer cannot be overstated. In addition there is another tool in your armory that you can use to ‘capture’ the recipient of your resume – the cover letter. It must also be targeted at a specific employer.
The cover letter will be read first by the potential employer so it must waste no time in focusing their attention and then persuade them to take further action in opening your attached resume. If the cover letter is not tailored then your carefully prepared resume may never be opened and read by the target reader. In effect, the cover letter is an instance of a sales letter designed to sell you and your resume to the employer.
There are three main types of cover letter -the broadcast letter, the letter of inquiry and the job application cover letter. Keep any cover letter to a single page. Check the spelling and formatting carefully. Remember that it is the first view of you that the reader will get. Don’t be afraid to personalise your writing style within reason. A stream of consciousness ramble will not go down well! Now we’ll examine each type of letter in turn.
A broadcast letter should accompany any resume sent to a recruitment agency or job site. The first sentence should focus on why you are writing. In this particular instance, the letter cannot be targeted at a specific reader as the letter will be broadcast to a wider Audience that cannot be known in advance. Instead you must target the broadcast letter to a specific role or industry sector. It is essential to include your key skills and to highlight your strengths and experience relevant to the role or sector being targeted.
Letter of Enquiry
A letter of enquiry should be included with a resume sent as a speculative enquiry to an employer. The first sentence should focus on why you are writing to the employer. It should go on to highlight your strengths and focus on your major skills and achievements. Keep in mind the employment sector you are targeting and list those skills and achievements most relevant to that sector. Write simply and clearly using no technical language that could confuse a non-technical reader.
Job Application Cover Letter
A cover letter should be included along with a resume sent as a job application to an employer. It’s necessary to include the company name in the address heading. The first sentence should include the job title and the reference of the role you are applying for. It should go on to highlight your strengths and focus on your skills and achievements relevant to the job applied for. Do not make any mention of your hoped for salary or of any other company benefits. Your goal is to present to the employer what it is you can do for them – not what they can do for you. Bear in mind that non-technical HR staff may process job applications so be sure to explain your skills and experience in layman’s terms.
In summary, make your cover letters concise, simple and to the point. Sell yourself to the employer. Highlight your suitability for the role. If you can keep the reader’s interest then your resume will be read in a more positive light. Always finish the cover letter with an appropriate call to action e.g. request a face-to face meeting with an employer. Now go and write that killer cover letter!