LESSON 3B: Cover Letters (Blog)

What is a cover letter? What function does it serve, and why is it important to include one with your resume? Sample cover letters are included.

Hello, Job Seekers! I hope you have had time over the last few days to review the materials on resume writing and begin to assemble verbiage you can use when you find the posting for the job of your dreams. I know it was a lot to take in, but I think I gave you some advice that, in the long run, will save you time and put you in the position to more easily craft a unique resume for each job you seek. I promised the other half of Lesson 3 would be about the subject of crafting a cover letter, and that is today’s topic.


First, how about a little quiz to see just what you know in terms of today’s hiring? The processes continue to evolve and, even in this little 10 question exercise, I had to go back and review 2 because today’s practices are slightly different than when I last applied for a job. Take the AARP Job Hunting Quiz and tell me in the comments how many you got right on the first try. If there was anything that particularly stumped you, indicate that, too, and I’ll try to make sure we cover it.


What Is a Cover Letter and Why Do I Need One?


Remember when we talked about the resume being how you package yourself to show the employer you are qualified for the position and share common objectives? Think about your birthday presents. Do you lunge for the one in the plain brown wrapper or, better still, the one that sits there with no card to really identify from whom it came, or do you gravitate to those that are artfully decorated with pretty bows? My grandmother used to make the neatest packages for us, each with beautiful handmade bows (until her arthritis got so bad), often containing trinkets. They were the first ones we were drawn to without fail.


Your cover letter is like those bows, and the trinkets contain bits of info about you you use to reel the screener in. No, I’m not suggesting you put glitter and sparkles on your cover letter! Rather, you dazzle them with your brilliantly crafted, unique letter that contains key words from the job ad. This leads them to want to know more about you, thereby advancing to your resume instead of moving you to the round file or shredder.


Think about what I told you in Lesson 3A about resumes. The same applies to your cover letter. It must be clean, neat, and aesthetically pleasing, free from typos, and properly punctuated. There must be sufficient white space to pull your reader down the page. Remember: only the first 7 and the last 3 words of any paragraph are often read.


Also please recall that, in Lesson 2, I encouraged you to note the name of the contact person for the ad and, if it is obvious, that person’s gender. If you find the job ad you reviewed, see if you can identify that now. That is the person to whom you will address your document. Be careful about gender neutral names. I’ve been Mr. Gayle on a couple of occasions in snail mail. Suffice it to say it’s very off putting.  Err on the side of caution if you are unsure.


As before, I’m going to give you a couple of well written articles to dig into that will tell you much of what you need to know. Please read the AARP article Get Noticed With Your Cover Letter. Follow that up with a couple of good ones, again from Susan Ireland, including How to Write a Cover Letter or Email, 50 Cover Letter Examples, and Free Cover Letter Template.  These articles in combination will tell you much of what you need to know about crafting the perfect cover letter.


One last word of caution: Today there are many places where you can get a free email address, including Yahoo, Google, and a number of others. You may also have the option of multiple email addresses through your web service provider. When conducting your job search, I encourage you to use an email that is for your search and other professional reasons only and not the one you use with your friends, family, and, in some cases, enemies.


It is important that your email address have a professional sound to it, most generally including your name if available. IWearFuzzySlippers@yahoo.com or ShootEmAndSkinEm@gmail.com is not going to present you in the best light to a future employer. In addition, you never want to write to a prospective employer using the email address of your current employer. It screams that you do not have much brand loyalty, aren’t sure how to use company resources, and shows you may do the same to them.


Having a job hunting only email box will make it easier for you to go through your mail and respond, making it less likely you will miss something. If you must have a one-stop inbox, many will allow you to funnel in email from different web services. I would also encourage you to have folders or tabs for each specific company to which you apply. Put any communications from you or them in that space, including a copy of the specific want ad (copy and paste into a word document, or print it and scan it). You will be in a much better place to start if you make it to the next round, Prescreening and/or Interviewing.


So that’s it for today’s lesson. Pretty simple, but crafting the right cover letter takes practice, so pull up that job ad you liked in Lesson 2 and the resume you practiced on in Lesson 3A. Why not work on creating the perfect cover letter that addresses the key points identified in the AARP and Susan Ireland articles. If you have questions or are stuck on something, let me know in the comments section, and we can review.


Our next stop in the employment process will cover Interviewing and Interview Etiquette.


Til the next time!


Happy job hunting!



LESSON 4 – Interviewing and Interview Etiquette


LESSON 3A: Resumes and Cover Letters

LESSON 2: How to Read a Job Ad

LESSON 1: Where to Search for a Job (Blog)


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Carol B October 04, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Job seekers should definitely take that quiz! There were a couple that I could have chosen between 2 of the answers, but I started out pretty confident and ended up with a 50%! SO SURPRISED! Yikes!
Gayle M. Montgomery October 04, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Thanks for the feedback, Carol. I got tripped up on 1 and 6. I forget which 6 was, but 1 had to do with the length of the resume, and that has been a number in flux through the years. It helps to know what the current thinking is.


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