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Do Cover Letters Matter?

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: Should I take the time to write a cover letter? If so, what’s the best approach to writing one that will catch the recruiter’s attention?

A: Yes! Don’t miss this great opportunity to help the recruiter or hiring manager learn more about you. A well-written cover letter is a way for you to introduce yourself and set yourself apart from the other applicants who didn’t take the time to craft one.

Before you start writing, find out the name of the recruiter or the hiring manager so that you can address your letter to that person. You can usually track down the name by calling the organization. If you are unable to find the name, address the letter to “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid using “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam,” as both are too generic and may offend the recipient if you guess wrong.

Your letter should be short but filled with information. Successful cover letters are personal, engaging, and dynamic, showing the hiring manager your interest in the organization and position and your readiness for a challenge. Every cover letter, like every resume, must be tailored to the specific position. Do not use a cover letter template!

Successful cover letters are personal, engaging, and dynamic, showing the hiring manager your interest in the organization and position and your readiness for a challenge.

The first paragraph should indicate the job you are applying for and how you heard about it. For example: “I am very excited to be submitting my attached resume for the position of meeting planner, which I found on your career site.”

Your next paragraph should sell your skills and explain why you have exactly the background the organization is looking for. Look at the job posting and carefully match your experience to the job requirements. For example: “You are looking for someone with a minimum of 10 years’ experience in professional meeting management, and as you will see on my resume, I’ve spent 12 years building my skills in that area. I’ve managed association meetings with more than 15,000 attendees. The meetings I’ve planned have come in under budget and have been a significant revenue producer.”

Close the letter by thanking the recruiter for considering your resume, and be sure to provide your contact information. End with a request for an interview, but don’t be pushy. Let the recruiter know you look forward to joining and contributing to the team.

A successful cover letter is short, tailored, and personal so that it stands out and highlights you in a positive manner. What you want is for the hiring manager to call you for an interview, and a cover letter is part of your selling proposition.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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