Cover Your Bases
If you think all you need to find
a job is a resume, you don't have all your bases covered. You also need
a cover letter.
Just think of your well-developed
resume and cover letter as your marketing team. They represent you
when you can't be there in person. Put some time and effort into
developing these career tools, and your job search story should have a
Dick Bolles is the author of What Color Is Your Parachute?
Bolles offers this advice: "Remember that
job hunting is a repetitive experience throughout your life. If you
take the time to master it now and do this job hunt well, it will pay you
dividends the rest of your life."
Why Send a Cover Letter?
A well-written cover letter, backed
by a resume, is your chance to introduce yourself to a prospective employer.
It gives you the chance to share your qualifications and state how you
might benefit their business.
Sandra Podesta is the co-author of
201 Killer Cover Letters. "A well-written cover letter...can
introduce the real person to the reader by demonstrating personality, characteristics,
unusual traits or strengths," she says.
When Cover Letters are Vital
Never send your resume to a potential
employer without a cover letter. If you are responding to a job ad
or contacting an employer that you would like to work for, use a cover
letter to emphasize your experience or education -- or both!
Matthew Rankin is a career information
officer at Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC). "The
cover letter is essential because it is your sales pitch," he says. "In many
cases, employers place more stock in a cover letter than in a resume."
When responding to an ad, you need
to set your resume apart from the competition. A well-written cover
letter is your way to do that.
"It also gives
the writer the opportunity to direct the reader to relevant information,
skills [and] accomplishments in the resume," says Podesta.
For these same reasons, the cover
letter is vital if you're sending your resume to a cold contact.
(A cold contact is an unfamiliar employer that has no advertised job openings.
It's common for people to send a resume and cover letter to cold contacts
they'd like to work for.)
"Even if you have arranged
an interview through networking, you should still send a resume ahead of
time -- along with a well-written cover letter that directs the reader's
attention to the points on which you want your interviewer to focus," adds Podesta.
E-mail or Fax?
A cover letter must accompany your resume, no matter the mode of distribution.
"Always introduce your resume with a cover letter, whether using e-mail,
snail mail or fax," says Podesta.
When sending it electronically, your
cover letter should be included with your resume. You can include
it in the body of the e-mail or send it as an attachment.
"However, e-mail letters often require special formatting," says Podesta.
Don't miss a chance to show what you have to offer.
Bolles states he believes there are
particular situations in which you really don't have to use a cover letter.
"A cover letter is
only necessary if it's accompanying a resume," says Bolles. "And a resume is not
the only way...to approach a place that interests you.
Bolles gives this example: "Well,
let's say I'm well-acquainted with the owner of some local business. He's
looking for someone to work for him. I'm looking for just that kind
of job. So, I go over there and tell him this. No cover letter
It takes a lot of work to get work.
But taking the time to write a personalized cover letter every time you
send out a resume is a good investment in your career goals.