A cover letter should introduce your resume. It should be clear and concise without going into the kind of detail used in the resume. At the same time, it should give employers a little meat to chew on. One way I do this is to include a sentence that highlights skills that will interest the employer.
Here are a few examples followed by the kind of job sought in parenthesis.
My duties have included maintaining schedules/calendars, travel arrangements, correspondence, and meeting planning. (Executive Assistant)
My duties included vendor management, negotiation, inventory control, and coordination of delivery and special orders. (Purchasing)
My duties have included store operations, event sales, recruiting, and training. (Retail Manager)
My duties have included all aspects of classroom instruction as well as extracurricular activities that encourage academic and personal development. (Teacher)
These are just a few examples of how a set of skills can be packaged in one sentence. Using this kind of sentence is one way you can keep you cover letter specific and concise.
The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce your resume, not to repeat everything it says. The cover letter should also give the reader a quick overview of why you are qualified to fill a position.
My strategy is to write a cover letter template after writing the resume. For most people, a template can be used with most resume submissions by simply changing the salutation and job title. Some experts say that you need to talk about the company you want to work for. Unless there is a direction to do so in a job post, I disagree. Most companies want to see how you are qualified. They will address fit and how much you know about the company at an interview.
My model cover letter is four paragraphs long. The first paragraph lists the position being sought, notes that a resume is enclosed, and offers references. Three short sentences. The second pargraph is a summary of qualifications. It is normally five to six sentences and covers key reasons why you will be a good employee. In the third paragraph, I highlight three qualities that fit the positions. These are usually soft skills such as organization, self-motivation, and leadership. In the fourth paragraph, I ask for an interview in these words: This summary cannot fully communicate my potential contribution. I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you personally and answer your questions.”
A cover letter should be easy to read. It should take less time to read your cover letter than it does to read your resume. Keep it concise, but give your readers enough information that drives them to the resume. That’s the purpose of a cover letter.
Here is a sample cover letter: Sales cover letter
I read cover letters every day. What’s wrong with most of them?
1. They’re too long. If conventional wisdom says employers don’t have time to read resumes, how will they have time to ready windy cover letters?
2. They simply repeat details from the resume. The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce you and your resume. Let the resume speak for itself.
3. They talk too much about the employer and how wonderful the employer is. Employers know their company. They want to know who you are. More importantly, they want to know why they should invest time in interviewing you.
Remember the function of a cover letter: Write something that makes the employer want to read your resume – and meet you.