What a Cover Letter is For

March 6, 2013 admin Blog

A cover letter is your opportunity to tell your potential employer exactly how the knowledge and skill set you have developed, and the experience you have acquired, can be put to work to benefit his company.  Your objective in writing the letter is to show him by elaboration what your resume can only point to in brief.

For instance, your resume may indicate that you increased sales in your division by 18%.  This is a fine accomplishment.  A potential employer will want to know if you can duplicate it with his firm.  To help him answer that question your cover letter gives you a platform from which to tell him how you did it.  By hearing how, he is in a position to see how you could transfer that skill to his company.

That brings us to the second point: when you explain what you have accomplished, always phrase it in such a way as to indicate how it is transferrable to the new position.  If excellent leadership skills increased motivation and moral among your sales team and encouraged a collegial competitive spirit, explaining this to a potential employer will show him how he can expect you to apply your skills to improve his bottom line.  Your resume does not provide you with a forum to explain this in depth; your cover letter does.

Your cover letter also offers you the opportunity to introduce talents not directly related to your past work experience that can positively affect your future job performance.  For instance, participation in volunteer outreach for your church will provide you with practical experience in public speaking, a skill both rare, and highly desired, by most enterprises.  Every business must communicate its purpose to the community where it operates and the customers it serves.  Having employees who can present a positive face for the company is a valuable asset.

Your cover letter also offers you a place to point to the specific abilities you possess that are most important to him, and which might not stand out in your resume without extra help.  HR people read resumes quickly, scanning for the skill sets their company is looking for.  They often have hundreds of resumes to review.  With such a large work load, it is easy to overlook something important.  Your cover letter allows you to direct an HR person’s attention to the specific entries in your resume that are most relevant to what he is looking for.  It helps prevent his overlooking a vital detail that will put your resume in the pile demanding further investigation.

Finally, when you have written your cover letter, show it to a colleague you trust, a former colleague, or someone you know has experience in writing cover letters and evaluating job applicants.  You want a second opinion.  Mistakes are easy to make.  They reflect badly on your candidacy for a position.  Make certain you have eliminated them.  Also make sure your cover letter is clear and strongly advocates for your skills and experience.

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