An effective cover letter has two main purposes: to demonstrate your understanding of the company or organization and how you can meet their needs and to provide a specific follow up step that you will take. The cover letter should not be a simple reiteration of what has already been stated in your resume and each letter needs to be customized for a particular company and/or job.
You can use a cover letter effectively when targeting appropriate employers and answering specific job posting ads. However, mass mailings of your resume and cover letter to random employers are rarely effective. If you are sending your resume via email as an attachment, the accompanying email is your cover letter. Also, if you are submitting your resume directly to an online database, you will often have the opportunity to include additional attachments such as a cover letter.
Here is the basic formula for a cover letter:
- Standard business letter address format
- Salutation to a real person, not "To whom it may concern"
- First paragraph: Why you are interested in the position and what company needs can you fill
- Second paragraph: Briefly state two or three top skills and follow with the benefits these features can provide the company
- Third paragraph: Outline a specific action you will take to follow up the letter
For complete guidelines for writing cover letters, check out: