In the age of LinkedIn and Facebook, a cover letter can seem like an unnecessary part of a job application. After all, an employer can learn all about your personal and professional history with a few clicks. Before you skip the letter, however, consider how it can support your application and convince the employer to bring you in for an interview.
One of the most important functions of the cover letter is to create a personal connection between you and the employer. It humanizes your resume and job application, ensuring that you come across as more than a list of skills. In many cases, your letter is the only chance you have to make a personal introduction. Capitalize on this opportunity by mentioning by name the person who referred you to the job, explaining your unique passion for the industry or telling a memorable story about your experience.
Explaining Resume Irregularities
A cover letter is important for all job seekers, but it is crucial for people with unusual work histories. If you have gaps in your work history, or if your work experience is nontraditional, the letter allows you to offer an explanation. In the process, you can answer questions and quell concerns preemptively. The letter also offers an opportunity to include experience that doesn't fit on a resume; you might talk about how you traveled the world while freelancing, for example, or talk about your leadership in local volunteer organizations.
Standing Out from the Crowd
When times are tough, companies may receive hundreds of applications for the same job. When candidates have equivalent qualifications, the cover letter may be your one opportunity to stand out from the crowd. A great letter instantly differentiates you and gives the employer a sense of your personality. The easiest way to set yourself apart from other applicants is to avoid standard boilerplate text and allow your unique voice and personality to shine through. After reading the letter, the employer should have a sense of who you are as a person, whether it's funny, passionate, enthusiastic or serious.
Prove Your Knowledge
A resume lets the employer know that you have the required experience for the open position. An effective cover letter lets him know that you have the in-depth insight and understanding to succeed. By writing with an insider's understanding of the company and industry, you can instill confidence and put the employer at ease. To write effectively, you must research the company, industry and position extensively and draw from your own experience.
The cover letter is an intimidating but essential part of the job search. When you invest the time to craft a cohesive, compelling letter, you can make a powerful first impression. In many cases, an excellent cover letter can be the single factor that moves you to the next stage of the hiring process.
Photo Courtesy of Cover Letters on Flickr.com
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