Cover letter help
By Mark Swartz
Monster Senior Contributing Writer
When you submit a resume in response to an advertised job, are you also including a customized cover letter? If not, you should really think about doing so from now on.
Cover letters can improve your chances of getting contacted for an interview. They show how eager you are to work for the specific employer you’re applying to. And you can let a bit of your personality come through in ways your resume doesn’t allow for.
It’s a fact, however, that not all employers (or recruiters) take the time to read cover letters. But you should include one just in case. To simplify things for yourself, create a single, standardized cover letter, one that you can easily modify – by addressing it to a specific person at the company you’re applying to, or by highlighting some of your work accomplishments that tie back to their job ad – each time you apply to a new company.
We thought it would be helpful to gather in one article some of the most frequently asked questions Monster.ca gets about cover letters. We’ve done so below. See our brief answers to the top 10 cover letter questions. You’ll also find links to our related articles for in-depth details.
Top 10 Questions About Cover Letters
10. What’s The Real Purpose Of A Cover Letter?
It's important to remember that the cover letter, like the resume, is a marketing tool. Use it to show how your experience and skills can directly help the employer. Doing so demonstrates to them that you have taken the time to customize your application to meet their needs. This, along with your resume, might be just the ticket to getting chosen for a job interview. Cover letter in response to a job posting on Monster.ca.
9. What Exactly Should I Put In My Cover Letter, And What Should I Leave Out?
Highlight your relevant work history, educational background, and earned credentials. Make sure they come close to matching what the employer’s job posting asks for. However just like with your resume, certain information should not be revealed to employers. Otherwise you might be exposing yourself to potential discrimination. Your age and marital status should be left off. Also your religion (and country of origin if it happens to be other than Canada).
8. How Should I Format My Cover Letter?
Typically a cover letter is set up like any other business letter. It starts with the contact information of the person you’re addressing the letter to. Then it states the subject of the letter, which might include the name or reference number of the job you’re applying for. Following this is the body of the letter: why you believe you’re qualified for this job, a bit about your relevant work history, how it is you’re interested in working for this particular employer, ending with how you plan to follow up. Want more info? Suggested Cover Letter Format. Good Looking Cover Letters. Cover Letter Etiquette.
7. What Are The Worst Cover Letter Mistakes?
Writing endlessly about how wonderful you are – without backing it up. Forgetting to mention why you truly want to work for this specific employer. Addressing the cover letter “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Employer,” which reveals that this is a broadcast letter, not a targeted marketing tool. Try to Avoid These 7 Killer Cover Letter Mistakes. And read about these Ten Cover Letter Don'ts.
6. Are There Cover Letter Samples For Different Situations I Can Access For Free?
Absolutely. Monster.ca has collected a number of cover letter samples for different positions (such as Office Coordinator or Purchasing Assistant) and for several types of career circumstances (e.g. Mid-Career Cover Letter Sample and Career Change Cover Letter Sample).
5. Who Can I Get To Review My Cover Letter For Errors and Effectiveness?
Proofreading is a skill that not everyone possesses. That’s why people decide to reach out for a second opinion. You can get others to review your cover letter for free (trusted friends, recruiters and local career centers), though it may pay dividends to hire a professional cover letter/resume writer for an experienced opinion.
4. How Do I Handle Sticky Situations In My Cover Letter?
If you’ve recently been downsized, or have been out of the workforce on an extended leave, it’s a good idea to mention this in your cover letter. The goal is to inform the employer of your circumstances while minimizing any concerns they might have. Read more about how to handle sticky situations in your cover letter.
3. What Is The Best Way To Include A Cover Letter Along With My Resume?
When you apply to a job posting online, you can include your cover letter as text, right in the body of your e-mail. Caution is advised though: you don’t want to send an email with fancy fonts and designs if the recipient is using a plain-text email client. Read more about the proper ways of Emailing Cover Letters and Attachments.
2. Do I Need To State My “Objective” In My Cover Letter?
Not necessarily. Have you read about how to Replace the Resume Objective with a Personal Brand Statement? In a similar vein here’s How to Include Your Personal Brand Statement in Your Cover Letter. Furthermore you can simply state that you are applying for the position as it’s listed in the job ad.
1. Are There Ways To Increase The Impact Of My Cover Letter?
One way to distinguish yourself in a cover letter is to Customize Your Cover Letter to the Job Ad. Show employers that you are genuinely qualified for the exact job they’re offering. Also capture their attention right from the start with New Beginnings for Your Cover Letter.
Let’s talk cover letters. If you’re like most people I know, you enjoy writing cover letters about as much as you like going to the dentist – or, worse yet – going in for a root canal. Finding the right words to describe how your skills fit with a job can be cumbersome – just like taking dental x-rays from odd angles with foreign objects in your mouth!
But cover letters don’t have to be awkward. The very best cover letters showcase your fit for a job and say why you are interested working for an organization – all while providing your prospective employer with a glimpse of your personality and talent. (You can spot a bad cover letter quickly if all of the sentences start with “I.”)
Here’s a foolproof way you can write a great cover letter in 30 minutes or less: Anticipate the questions employers will have for you, and answer them.
Recruiters and hiring managers want to know the answer to 4 questions:
1. How did you hear of the job?
This may seem like a silly interest since it has little to do with you, but employers want to know how you learned about the job – it tells them if their advertising is working.
2. How do you meet the position requirements?
Because employers often hire for more than one position at a time – it never hurts to briefly summarize the job requirements before showcasing your experience.
3. Why are you interested in the job?
Although it may not often seem like it, employers are as eager to hire employees who want to work for them as you are to get a job. You need to go beyond “I need a job” and state what particularly interests you about the company and the position.
4. Will they like you?
Do you say thank you? Is your overall tone friendly?
Here’s how this looks in a letter:
Your Address (Leave name and cell phone off the top of your letter)
City, State Zip
City, State, Zip Code (Or Country)
Dear Search Committee:
Through my friend (insert name or other source of job listing), I learned that (company name) is accepting applications for a (insert position title). I write to apply for the position.
Based on the position description, I understand you are looking for someone who can do (insert one job function/responsibility), (insert another responsibility) and (insert another responsibility). I offer you a demonstrated ability to perform these tasks as can be seen through my work with (insert name of past employer). In this role, I (summarize relevant experience here).
I am especially interested in working for you due to (insert reason other than high pay or free lunch, show you’ve looked up the company). This opportunity also is a strong match for my career goals of (provide information that relates to the job opening and if appropriate share a brief example of how the position matches your interests.)
Thanks in advance for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
And that’s it: short, sweet and to the point. Got a question on how to target your skills for a specific situation? Ask away with a comment – next week we will provide strategies for tackling awkward situations – from how to market yourself if you are overqualified to what to do if you’ve interviewed with the company before.
Categories: Resume TipsTags: cover letter