|What’s in a Cover Letter?|
by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
Some things are just made to go in pairs. Salt and pepper, knife and fork, wine and cheese are all good examples of pairs of things that work best when paired up. A resume and cover letter are two things that work best when used together. Sure, a resume would have some effect when used without a cover letter, but a resume is most effective when accompanied by a cover letter, even in an email.
What exactly does a cover letter do? A cover letter introduces you to the reader and gives information that a resume is not designed to provide. A cover letter tells the reader why you are sending a resume, why you are especially qualified for the position, and gives information about qualifications you have that are directly related to the requirements of the position.
A great cover letter is customized to the position being targeted and addresses the requirements of that position directly. Often, a cover letter can target qualifications that are not directly stated in the job description but can be a pivot point in the decision-making process. For example, an ad for a receptionist in an international law firm requires all the “normal” stuff such as ability to handle multi-line telephone systems, good speaking ability, etc. The resume of a qualified applicant would cover these requirements, but the resume may not note other benefits the applicant has that would be beneficial in this position. The cover letter can bring those benefits to light.
For example, the cover letter for this position might state something like “While working at XYZ company as their lead receptionist, I was honored to be selected to be photographed for that company’s new brochure due to my conscious decision to present a pleasant appearance as the company’s first-impression maker.” Appearance is important in a receptionist but a job ad can’t state “Applicant must be attractive.” By using the cover letter to communicate this information in a subtle way, the job seeker gains an advantage over other applicants and gets the interview.
Cover letters can cover lots of other information too. A cover letter can discuss salary requirements, relocation, education-in-progress, and other information that has no place on a resume. A cover letter can give information on best times and methods of contact. A cover letter can also request confidentiality when the job seeker is conducting a confidential job search.
Cover letters and resumes go together and should always be sent together. One complements the other just like salt and pepper or Sonny and Cher. One may be able to sing, but the duo sounds best.