Monday, March 23, 2015

What is a Cover Letter?

A resume cover letter highlights your key skills and experiences, specific to the job role for which you are applying. Many potential employers look for a cover letter in your job application and do not entertain resumes that are not preceded with it. However, some find cover letters less important; so, you can avoid cover letters when the job advertisement specifically forbids the use of one. In all other cases, cover letters needs to be included. Cover letters are usually a single page document that is used by employers to screen applicants and select only those, they would like to interview.

Difference between cover letter and resume

Cover letters and resumes serve the same purpose of providing information; that shows, you are quite suitable for the job role. However, both need to be tailored in a manner, that make these two documents appear to be related yet unique. The basic difference between the two are:

  • A resume states who, what when and how; whereas, a cover letter gives you an opportunity to explain each of them
  • A cover letter is a platform, you can use to express more subjective information; such as, the basis of your interest in any particular position, your values that motivate you to pursue a job, or why the culture of a company appeals to you
  • Your cover letter sells your qualification; whereas, your resume provides data to back your letter
  • If you are having large gaps, or want a transit from one profile to another, or are conducting a long distance job search - cover letters can be more useful than resumes. It is because resumes provide restricted scope to explain these things positively.
  • A resume provides information regarding the jobs you worked for in the past, your educational background and skills. Cover letter provides information as to why you are a good candidate for the job.
  • Many employers use cover letter to interpret your background and the way you introduce yourself
  • It is only through cover letters that you are able to formally request employers to consider your resume and call you for any interview. This indicates that you have a good sense of etiquette.
  • Finally, a cover letter explains why you are sending your resume and how did you come to know about the job opening

How to write a cover letter?

Here are certain guidelines that can help you write a good cover letter:

  • Begin with a letterhead: Add a letterhead at the top of your cover letter. Mention your name, address, contact information and email id. Your name needs to have a bigger font size as compared to rest of the information in your letter. This is followed by name of the hiring manager, office address and date. You may use a line to bring visible clarity in between the two sections of this letterhead.
  • Include a salutation: If you are aware about the name of concerned hiring manager, your letter needs to start with a salutation "Dear (name)" followed by a comma. If you don't know the name, you can use "Hiring Manager" instead. Be very careful with proper use of "Mr.","Ms.","Dr."etc..
  • First paragraph of your letter: This section comprises of only two to three sentences. It is here that you state about the purpose of sending a resume, the profile you are applying for and how did you find the job listing. You may start the sentence in this way:"I am writing in regards...."
  • Writing the body of your letter: This section is of two to three paragraphs. You need to have complete knowledge about the company and job role you are applying for. It is in this section, that you mention all your skills and experiences related to the profile. This section is the heart of your letter. Never state what you want from the deal; this will kill the interest of your employer. End this section with a positive statement that will convince employers to invite you for the interview. Always remember to direct the interviewer to your resume attached and welcome them to get in touch with you for the process.
  • Give an appropriate ending: The closing lines of your letter need to express your gratitude towards the employer for his/her valuable time. Always write "Yours Sincerely" ,"Respectfully" or something similar; followed by your signature. Use notation "Enclosure(s)" at the bottom to indicate that your letter contains related documents.

Detailed description with examples for writing good cover letters has been provided in various sites. You can visit these sites for any guidance.

Cover letters don't just support your resume. They present you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiting team to invite you for further rounds.

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