Don’t Discount the Trusty Cover Letter

Recently, we discussed resumes in a post about the four rules you must follow so your resume avoids the trash and ends up in the interview pile. While your resume is arguably the most important document in the job search process, don’t underestimate its trusty sidekick, the persuasive, personable cover letter. Together, your resume and cover letter create the dynamic duo that will land you that coveted interview and lead you down the path to your dream job.

It’s About the Employer, Not You
Unless the job description indicates you don’t need one, you should plan to write a cover letter to accompany your resume for most professional jobs. If you don’t think you’re a good writer, or the thought of writing a cover letter makes your stomach churn, take heart. Don’t think of writing a cover letter as a painful, agonizing experience. Think of it as your opportunity to convey your personality to the employer and brag a little about yourself, including all you’ve accomplished as an online or distance student at Colorado State University.

Just remember your audience – the employer – when you craft the letter. Your cover letter is ultimately about the employer’s needs, not yours, so always keep the job requirements in mind as you write the letter, and explain how you would excel at them. Targeting your letter to the employer’s needs and requirements of the job is the most important advice I can give, but there are plenty of other tips for writing an effective cover letter.

Abundance of Advice
Just like resumes, the Internet abounds with tips and advice, and it’s tough to sift through all the noise. But you clicked on this post to get a little advice on writing your cover letter, right? Or maybe you were hoping we’d say cover letters have become irrelevant in the digital age (alas, to the best of my knowledge, that’s not the case, and now you get to write cover letter e-mails, too). Or maybe you’re just procrastinating.

In any case, if you’re looking for advice, check out Purdue’s Online Writing Lab. It’s a fantastic resource. As a one-stop shop for advice on writing your letter, it provides useful tips on content and formatting and a workshop that guides you through the process, from learning about the job to writing your letter. The OWL website also offers a discussion of other types of professional letters, such as follow-up letters, negotiations, requests for a reference, and thank you letters.

If you’re in need of other resources, check out Virginia Tech’s website, which includes handy formatting guidelines and both hard copy and e-mail samples. As an online or distance student at CSU, we would also recommend speaking with your advisor, who has years of experience in your field, about what employers will expect in your letter, or talk to a staff member at the CSU Career Center.

Avoid Being Vague
The resume and cover letter are, in essence, the first two professional documents you will write for a company, so you need to put your best foot forward. Just like your resume, your cover letter needs to be well formatted, error free, and truthful. While these tips may seem obvious, they are critical.

Your cover letter needs to be targeted and provide specifics not already covered in your resume. Don’t just tell the employer that you’re hard-working, a good leader, and passionate about your career. Show the reader you possess these traits through relevant experiences and activities, and the employer will pick up on these traits and learn a lot more about you as both an individual and future employee.

Got Advice?
Do you have any winning tips for cover letters? Post a comment and share them with your peers. If you’re still seeking advice, check out our previous blog post The Job Search Cometh. We also found the following articles through the job search website Monster to be helpful:

As you apply for jobs, don’t discount the power of an effective cover letter. Good luck on the job hunt!

3 thoughts on “Don’t Discount the Trusty Cover Letter”

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