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The purpose of a cover letter

By Amanda McCarthy

Most employers these days still require a cover letter, particularly when you’re sending a speculative application or applying for an advertised vacancy.

A cover letter is like the introductory handshake at an interview. It’s a personal greeting on paper or in an email that breaks the ice and introduces you to the prospective employer. It outlines why you’re making contact and why you’d be a valuable employee.

Your cover letter serves a number of purposes. It can act as:

A letter of introduction. Give the employer a snapshot of who you are by introducing yourself in the cover letter. Tell the recruiter why you’re writing, how you fit the bill and why you want to work for their organisation.

A selling mechanism. You have 30 seconds of a recruiter’s time to grab his or her attention, so don’t be shy; take the opportunity to market your skills, abilities, qualifications and work experience in your cover letter. Demonstrate how good you are, explain why you’re the best person for the job and outline what you can offer the company. Sell yourself on paper.

The entrée before the main meal. A strong cover letter jumps out at the recruiter and sparks interest. It whets the employer’s appetite and arouses interest in your resume.

An example of your writing skills. Your cover letter gives the recruiter a feel for your written communication skills. It demonstrates your ability to construct a letter, and employers can see your eye for detail.

A perfect skills match. A well-crafted cover letter is customised to the job and the employer. It’s not a generic ‘canned letter’ sent out to every employer. It spells out your skills and highlights how these match perfectly to the requirements of the role. Figure 8-1 shows a specific job ad and Figure 8-2 provides an example cover letter tailored to the job ad.

Initiative scores high on a recruiter’s check list, so before you start putting together your cover letter, take the trouble to do some research on the company and job. Get hold of the organisation’s annual report or hop onto the company’s Web site - you’re bound to find plenty of information on the firm, its products and services, and corporate culture.

Not only that, the recruiter will know you’re genuinely interested in the role.

Excerpted with permission of the publisherJohn Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd from Australian Resumes for Dummies, Copyright 2008 by Amanda McCarthy. Avaliable from all good booksellers from RRP $39.95

More great cover letter and resume advice here in
MyCareer's Advice and Research Centre

Published: 18 April 2008

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