Jobs take fighting for, and these days you aren't fighting alone. According to the New York Times, the U.S. added 290,000 jobs in April 2010 - the largest gain in four years. But competition for jobs is fierce, which means you need to stand out to land yourself an interview. According to Tim Bearden of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a cover letter is a job hunter's pitch to an employer, and should be used to gain distinction among other candidates.
Your cover letter is what decides if a company looks at your resume, contacts you for an interview, or gets you placed in the rejection pile. Knowing that, it is important to create a well-written, eye-catching letter that sells your achievements and job skills to impress the recruiter.
"One of the pluses of the cover letter is that it is a creative, personal document, and when you are being creative - generally speaking - anything goes," said Kimberly Sarmiento, author of The Complete Guide to Writing Effective Resume Cover Letters. " Once you have mastered the art of writing cover letters, the task of writing a personalized introduction to each potential employer will seem less like a chore and more like an outlet for self-expression."
While there is room for some personality, there are guidelines that should be followed. The three basic rules for writing an effective letter are:
1. Cover letters should be to the point and make an impact. Limit your letter to a single page and capture the reader's attention while describing your abilities. The hiring authority is assessing more than what is in your letter, but how well you wrote it.
2. Your cover letter and resume should complement each other. They should have the same formatting, font, and paper, convey professionalism, and make you stand out. The cover letter should include highlights from your resume that you want to bring to the forefront. Generally, you do not want to include information that is not in your resume.
3. Show attention to detail. Use a spelling and grammar checker, have an appropriate salutation, and research the company and industry in which you are applying. You want to convey that you have looked up the company and are aware of what they do, as well as give the impression that your letter was recently written because the job is at the top of your priority list.
Being qualified for a job is not the only think companies are looking for, which is why a resume is not enough. By following these guidelines, you will not only be able to show that you can do the job, but that you are the right person for the job.