the professional cover letter has taken a backseat to its much more popular
cousin, the resume. Although it is often seen as stuffy, antiquated, and even
frivolous, the cover letter actually has the power to establish the
all-important first impression. And what you put in that letter could be the
catalyst that sets you apart and gets you an interview.
people underestimate the importance of a cover letter, one reason is because
many don’t really know what goes into it. It is actually a great place to catch
a hiring manager’s attention and showcase things that just can’t be
communicated as well in a resume.
Like a resume, a cover letter can give highlights
of your career accomplishments, a brief summary of your career path, and your
relevant skills required for the position. But, what can a cover letter make an
employer see about you that a resume often can’t?
1. Your ability to sell
yourself. Though a resume is
where you sell your skills and experiences, a great place to sell yourself as a
strong investment is in the cover letter. This is not just for those of you in
sales – everyone is expected to sell themselves! Being able to do so shows you
are assertive and confident about your abilities. Take the time to create a
compelling opening paragraph and hook the hiring manager or recruiter right
2. Your reasons for job gaps
or choppy work history. You
may have taken time off work to go back to school or care for an ill relative,
but that isn’t something easily explained (or appropriate to state) in a
resume. A short, concise paragraph should provide honest, yet tactful answers
into any questions about the chronology of your work history.
3. Your reasons for seeking a
new job. Unless you are
unemployed, giving a reason why you are looking for a new job can be insightful
for an employer. There is no need to go into detail or badmouth your current/past
employer, but a simple statement about wanting to grow in your field or change
your career path would be sufficient. This statement is especially useful if
you have a unique situation driving your job search.
4. Your reasons for changing
careers (if applicable). If
you have spent 20 years in investment banking are now pursuing a career in
teaching, the hiring manager’s first question will be, “Why the change?”
Offering some insight will give them perspective about you and where you are
career-wise. Not explaining your reasons for changing careers could even make
an employer think you are desperate to apply for any old job (even those not in
your field), or worse yet, make them think you accidentally applied for the
5. Your personality! Unless they are professionally written, most
resumes are boring, conventional, and show very little personality. Employers
are interested in not just your hard skills, but also your ability to excite,
collaborate, motivate, sell, create, lead, and grow. What better way to show
you have these abilities than in the language you use in your cover letter? Let
your real personality come out in your cover letter and it will complement the
skills and experiences you showcase in your resume.
In addition to the above, a cover letter is a
great place to present client/colleague testimonials or give background
information about a corporate award you earned. These are just some reasons why
a cover letter should not be looked at as a less popular cousin to the resume,
but rather an equal and complementary partner, helping to establish you as the
best candidate for the job!
Cathy Eng is a Certified Advanced Resume Writer (CARW),
author, and owner of Resume Rocketeer, Inc. With corporate expertise spanning marketing,
communications, operations, and human resources, Cathy boasts a distinctive talent
for maximizing client experiences to create compelling and effective resumes
and cover letters that consistently win interviews. An accomplished author,
Cathy also holds a B.S. in Journalism. For a free resume analysis, visit www.resumerocketeer.com.