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5 Commandments Of An Effective Cover Letter  
10/2/2012 2:07:07 PM

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5 Commandments of an Effective Cover Letter November 14, 2013

5 Rules to Keep in Mind When Sending a Cover Letter

By Bob McIntosh, Career Trainer

A question was asked by a member of our career center group about the importance of cover letters in the job search. My response was to adamantly encourage people, regardless if a letter is requested, to send one along with the resume.

Dianne Loiselle, who is a Human Resources Generalists, added to the discussion, “The fine art of cover letters seems to have nearly disappeared,” she writes. “These days, I’m more surprised if one is included.”
Laura Smith-Proulx, an executive professional resume writer, writes in one of her blog entries, “Despite the myth that hiring authorities rarely read cover letters, some audiences (company owners, CEOs, and Presidents) might not even glance at your résumé until they’ve fully digested the contents of your letter.”

Not all will agree that sending a cover letter is necessary even if the employer doesn’t ask for it. And there are times when recruiters, employers, and HR will instruct us not to send a cover letter. The case may be that time is an issue or it’s a position that will require little to no writing. This is the only time we should not send a cover letter.

Dianne further advises to not assume that the company knows what position you’re applying to, especially when they’re trying to fill multiple positions. She adds, “Those that follow the instructions in the ad get processed first, so make it easy for the recruiter.…”

And another thing, the quality of your cover letter is essential.

Here are five general rules to follow when writing a cover letter.

1. Make it your best writing. Remember that you are being judged not only on your qualifications but how you write, as well. Dianne added that she receives cover letters that contain, “no punctuation, sometimes no real sentences, shortened words and more words misspelled than spelled correctly.”

2. Be absolutely sure that you have researched the position and can speak to how your skills and experience fit the role. Quantified accomplishments are a must if you want to impress the reader.

3. As many will attest, researching the company and understanding its needs and the direction in which it’s going is paramount to getting the reader’s attention. In addition, be able to speak to the state of the industry and the company’s competitors.

4. Know your audience. In most cases, since you’re reacting to an advertised position, you don’t know the person to whom you’re writing. This means that taking an informal stance is not appreciated. Until you are hired and on a first-name basis, address the recipient as Mr. and Ms. And yes, try your best to get the person’s name, correctly spelled.

5. I’m a strong fan of grabbing the employer’s attention with the first sentence, so make it spicy and entice the reader to read on. I think an opening sentence like, “I read with great interest on Moster.com of your program management position” is boring and typical. Start with something of substance: “If you’re looking for someone to manage your job development program in a tight economy, I offer you the energy and industry experience you’re looking for.”

Take my humble advice and that of others; send a cover letter with your résumé. The proper job search can only be done one way. It must be an all-out endeavor. At the very least, send a two-to three-page paragraph.

About the Author

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer at the Career Center of Lowell, where he leads more than 20 workshops on the career search. Bob is often the person jobseekers and staff go to for advice on the job search. As well, he critiques resumes and conducts mock interviews. One of his greatest accomplishments is starting a LinkedIn group, which is one of the largest of its kind in the state, and developing three in-high-demand workshops on LinkedIn. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. Please visit Bob's blog at www.thingscareerrelated.wordpress.com.

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