Resume cover letters are indispensable in your job search. Employers expect every resume to come with a matching cover letter. Like your resume, your cover letter should be an advertizement for you. It should not just be an introduction to your resume or a summary of your resume!
Today, cover letters are often e-mailed, so some of the rules you grew up with have changed. Others, such as basic courtesy, have withstood the test of time. This article will take you through the 8 steps to writing an excellent cover letter that will make you stand out from the crowd.
1. Read the job ad carefully and extract key phrases or words.
Your cover letter should be a response to a specific job posting. If you know which company you’d like to work for, but don’t have a job posting to refer to, you need to write a letter of inquiry instead. If you don’t have a job ad or company in mind, what you should do for now is visit Craigslist or a job search engine and find a job posting to practice with.
Read over the ad carefully. Now, read it again, looking for important words or phrases. For example, if the ad says “must respond to telephone inquiries daily,” then the phrase “telephone skills” should appear in your letter.
2. If sending by e-mail, come up with a relevant subject line.
After posting an ad online, your future employer is probably being bombarded with e-mails, not only from job seekers like you, but also from spammers. Make sure your e-mail stands out with a good title.
Don’t title your e-mail “resume” or “cover letter.” Especially do not leave the title blank! Give it a relevant title, such as “In Response to Monster.com Posting: Application for Nursing Position” or “Application for nursing position #04803-493.” These subject lines are specific, so they don’t look like spam.
3. Consider using a professional business letter format.
Whether a professional cover letter format should be used online is controversial. Some businesspeople say e-cover letters should maintain the traditional letter format with a full heading, while others say this is unnecessary.
This author’s advice is to consider the job poster’s expectations when deciding whether to use a traditional format. Did the job poster make a formal job ad, with their name, the company’s address, and a greeting? Or did they post a 15-word ad with an anonymous e-mail address? Do they represent a conservative company? Is this a position in a conservative industry, such as banking, accounting, finance, or law?
If you think a traditional format is what the poster wants to see, include these items in the following order:
- Your street address
- Your city, state, and zip code
- The day’s date
- The recipient’s name
- The recipient’s title
- The company’s name
- The company’s street address
- The company’s city, state, and zip code
If you use a traditional format, it’s probably best to attach the cover letter to the e-mail, then write a short but eye-catching message in the body of the e-mail to encourage the reader to open the attachment.
If you’re not using the formal letter style, you can write your cover letter in the body of the e-mail.
4. Try to find out the job poster’s name.
These days, it may not be possible to find out a job poster’s name from an online job ad, but if you can do so, you’ll stand out from the crowd. If the employer listed the job on an employment site, do they have a profile? If they listed an e-mail address, does it have their name? Does Googling their e-mail address bring you to a LinkedIn profile?
If you can’t find the poster’s name, you’ll have to use a generic greeting such as “Dear Employer” or “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
5. Start the body of the cover letter with a focused introduction of two or three sentences.
Your first sentence should give the name of the position for which you are applying. It’s helpful to include where you saw the job posting. If you were referred by a current employee, be sure to mention that. In the next sentence or two, appeal to what the employer wants. Pick the most important qualifications the employer requested and briefly explain how you meet these standards
6. In the next paragraph, explain how your skills match the employer’s needs.
To keep the reader interested, you need to make a clear connection between your skills and the qualifications mentioned in the job ad. Tie those key words and phrases to specific examples that back up your claims.
For example, let’s say the job ad says they need someone with “extensive PR experience.” You must say you have extensive public relations experience, then prove it. This would be a good place to talk about your last successful PR position. Don’t repeat what you said on your resume verbatim, but support your claim with concrete examples.
You may have both relevant work experience and an applicable educational background. In the above example, maybe you earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a focus on Public Relations. In this case, you may want to split this paragraph into two, with one focused on work experience and the other on education. Start with the one most relevant to the job ad.
Another option is to use cover letter bullet points to sum up how your skills match the qualifications. Bullet points may display differently on different monitors, so keep it simple.
If you don’t have directly related skills, emphasize transferable skills, while still trying to use as many of the job ad’s key terms as you can.
At the close of this paragraph, encourage the reader to see your attached resume. You can mention the format it is in, too.
7. In the last body paragraph, give your contact information, then thank the reader.
Your contact information should already be on your resume, but since it’s so important, it’s worth mentioning again. In these two or three sentences, give one or two phone numbers where you can be reached. If you’re best able to receive calls during certain times of the day or days of the week, mention that. You can also suggest dates during which you’d be available for an interview. Also, offer one e-mail address where you can be reached.
If you’re planning on contacting the company in a week or so to check up on the position, don’t be afraid to mention that.
Finally, thank the reader! You can thank them for their time, consideration, or both.
8. In closing, wrap up by writing “Sincerely,” moving to the next line, and including your full name.
Not every employer expects this closing, but it’s best to err on the side of formality. “Sincerely” is considered the default closing. “Yours truly” and “Best regards” may used when not following a traditional format.
To end the e-mail, type out your full first and last name.
By following these steps, you’ll be able to create a cover letter that showcases your professionalism and your skills. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-written cover letter. In this job market, you need every advantage you can get.
The employment situation in the United States is difficult right now, as any American can tell you. Job growth slowed significantly in June 2011, according to a Labor Department report published earlier this month. Only 18,000 nonfarm payroll positions were added, far fewer than the 150,000 jobs per month needed to keep pace with regular population growth.
If we are recovering from what many are calling the Great Recession, the recovery has been slow and erratic. This isn’t what any job seeker wants to hear, but it’s practical information. The following article will cover some important statistics on the current employment situation in the U.S.
Just how high was the unemployment rate last month?
As per the June 2011 Labor Department report on the employment situation, the unemployment rate in June was 9.2%, a small increase from the 9.1% seen in May. For comparison, the unemployment rate in 1933, the height of the Great Depression, was 24.9%. So, our employment situation is still nowhere near as challenging as what many of our great-grandparents had to face. However, due to population growth, there are technically more unemployed people now than there were during the Great Depression.
As of June, we had 14.1 million unemployed Americans. This number increased by 545,000 since March. There were 153.4 million people in the labor force in June, a number which hasn’t changed much in recent months.
Keep in mind that, when the Labor Department covered the employment situation, the term “unemployed” only referred to people who were actively looking for jobs. Homemakers and retired people, for example, didn’t contribute to the unemployment rate. People who were interested in working, were available to work, but hadn’t looked for work for 4 weeks before the Labor Department’s survey were considered “marginally attached to the labor force.”
How many people were interested in working, but not actively looking for jobs?
There were a significant number of people who were “marginally attached to the workforce.” In June, there were 2.7 million of these individuals, about the same as in 2010. Out of these 2.7 million, 982,000 were “discouraged workers.” These people weren’t looking for work because they didn’t think there were jobs available to them. The other 1.7 million people cited school attendance or family responsibilities as reasons for not searching for work within the past 4 weeks.
Was the unemployment rate very different for different demographic groups?
Yes, and it usually is. There were more unemployed men (9.1%) than women (8.0%). As usual, the employment situation was harder for teenagers, who had a much higher unemployment rate (24.5%).
The unemployment rate was 8.1% for white people, 11.6% for Hispanic people, and 16.2% for black people. The unemployment rate was 6.8% for Asians, not seasonally adjusted.
Is an education a bad investment in this economy?
No. The Labor Department’s statistics clearly show that the unemployment rate gradually gets less severe with each level of education you complete.
For adults 25 and older, the unemployment rate for high school dropouts was 14.3%. High school graduates had an unemployment rate of 10%, those with some college education or an associate’s degree had an unemployment rate of 8.4%, and those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher had an unemployment rate of 4.4%. Keep in mind that a person’s college major has a significant impact on their earnings and the likelihood they will be employed after graduation.
If there’s some job growth, who’s hiring?
Private companies are hiring, although not much. Private companies added 57,000 jobs in June, which was much lower than the 200,000 jobs they added February through April. The biggest gains have been in healthcare. The healthcare industry added 14,000 new jobs in June, although this was still lower than the average 24,000 jobs per month they’ve added over the past year. The most popular healthcare job category was ambulatory services.
The second-place winner was the leisure and hospitality industry. This industry added 34,000 jobs in June. The leisure and hospitality industry has grown by 279,000 since January 2010.
The government. The federal government cut 14,000 positions, while state and local governments eliminated another 25,000 jobs. Almost three-fourths of the lost jobs at the local level were in education.
In second place was the financial industry. This industry lost 15,000 jobs in June.
Temporary help services also sunk. This is especially worrisome for the future employment situation, as temp hires tend to rise before businesses hire permanently. This industry lost 12,000 jobs.
Are there any signs the employment situation might get better soon?
Possibly—there have been a few good signs along with the bad. According to a recent New York Times news article, some economists have cited “more recent data showing a pickup in retail sales at chain stores and a rise in an index of business hiring” as good signs for the employment situation.
Manufacturing jobs, which only added 6,000 positions in June, might see a boost soon. According to analysts’ predictions, auto production should go up this fall. This is in part because disruptions in supply are improving and because also of built-up demand. After all, most people can’t put off buying a car forever.
Obviously, the overall employment situation is painful. But, while it’s important to know what’s happening in our country, you can’t allow the employment situation to paralyze your job hunt. You have to make sure you know how to write a resume or write a CV that advertises you well. Use Facebook and Twitter for business networking. Stay positive and look for work every day. Chances are, your great-grandparents survived an employment situation worse than this, or you wouldn’t be here. You can make it, too.