Most people are perfectly comfortable with their resume. They have it set out in the proper format for the type of career they have and everything about it is professional. The problem comes when they have to write a cover letter. Often they don’t know what to include, how personal to make it and what to avoid including. The biggest mistake that many people make is to create a single cover letter and send it out. A generic cover letter is almost certainly going to be ignored and join your resume at the bottom of the trash can. Hiring managers tend to view this as insulting and as a good indicator of the type of employee you would be – someone who cuts corners and can’t be bothered with doing the job right.
A cover letter is actually very simple and very short. In the first paragraph you introduce yourself, briefly. Mention who you are, how you heard about the job, and include any contacts names at this point. The second paragraph can be a little bigger, but not too much. In this paragraph you will mention the job you are applying for and how your specific skills can be used for it. This is also a great place to mention that you were able to improve sales by a certain dollar amount, projects you were involved with, and so on. Keep it brief and don’t go into detail. You might also add a bullet point or two that showcase your biggest accomplishments that are relevant to the job.
The closing paragraph asks for an interview. This is where you tell the hiring manager that you would love to come in and discuss the second paragraph with them in detail. By sure to close with a thank you for their time and a promise to follow up within a week. Then follow up. I know several hiring managers that wait until the follow up to offer the interview.
Don’t let cover letters spook you. They are a quick and efficient way of letting the hiring manager know enough about you to want to meet you.