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Cover Yourself

Your cover letter is just as important as your Resume or application form.

The cover letter is your first sales pitch to a potential employer. A good one introduces you to the employer and explains why you are one of the best candidates applying for the job. It’s an overview of your skills and how they apply to the position.

Don't be tempted to copy things straight from your Resume however; that’s the biggest mistake job applicants make when putting together a cover letter. A cover letter should not be a rehash of your Resume .

Even though your Resume contains a wealth of information in support of what you’re about to say in your cover letter, you must select 3 or 4 key points - whether qualifications, experience, aptitude or characteristics - which match your understanding of the company’s needs, gathered through studying their advert, website or brochure.

The cover letter should cover two important points: What you can do for the company and what the company needs that you have to offer. The following points should help you in writing an effective cover letter.

  • A cover letter should not look like it has been distributed as a form letter to numerous employers. It should be customised to the needs of the employer.
  • There should be no spelling, typing or grammatical errors.
  • It should look professional in form, structure and design.
  • It shouldn’t be handwritten but rather typed or word-processed.
  • Do not use inappropriate stationery or the wrong envelope size. It should be produced on clean, crisp white paper.
  • It should not project an overly aggressive and obnoxious tone.
  • The cover letter should not appear self-centred but rather job or employer-centred.
  • Downplay “I” and emphasise “you”. Try to convert “I haves” into “you wants” for the employer. What can you do for the organisation that will create interest and arouse a desire for an interview with you?
  • It should cover your interests, skills, accomplishments or what you expect to achieve in the future.
  • Visually call attention to your qualifications by bolding or indenting them in lists with bullets. Use these kinds of emphasis sparingly just to make it stand out when the reader gives your letter a quick skim.
  • Address your letter to the person who can hire you, HR or department heads. If you do not know the name of the person, call the company and find out the name and title of the person to whom to address your letter. This shows initiative and resourcefulness.
  • Be sure to include contact information - a return address and phone number.
  • The cover letter should not be more than one page.
  • The primary goal of the cover letter is to get an interview. Be sure and ask for one at the end of the letter. And finally, be prepared to initiate the follow-up communication with a telephone call a week later. Let your prospective employer know you will be doing this in the letter. This may be just enough to get them to hold onto your cover letter and give it a more thorough reading.

  • Debbie O'Halloran