Perhaps the one thing job-seekers dread more than writing a resume is writing the cover letter to go with it. Though a resume requires solid writing skills and attention to detail, a cover letter requires the job-seeker to answer the most important questions on the mind of the committee chair or committee: "Why is this applicant the best qualified candidate for the job?" and "How will this person fit into the organization?". How well a cover letter is written may play a large part in how effective the resume will be. A good cover letter may help get an interview; a bad one may make the resume little more than an afterthought.
Cover Letter Content:
- The cover letter is a chance to sell a person as the best candidate for the position.; As such, it's just as important as the resume. In fact, a resume s should never be sent without a cover letter.
- The most important thing to remember is that the cover letter serves a separate function from the resume and should not be used to repeat the details of the resume, such as work history, education, or personal objectives.
- The resume is about experience, skills and how they relate to the job posting.
- The cover letter is about what can be done for the employer. An effective cover letter should be no more than ½ to 1 page in length and should accomplish three things:
Introduce The Reason for Writing:
- The first paragraph needs to grab the committee member’s attention.
- Say exactly why: the resume is being sent; "interested in the position and to fill the department’s need.";
- Show dedication to providing the needs described in the posting.
- Be as specific as possible in how those needs will be addressed
- Don't just mention the job position; describe what is needed and how those needs will be accomplished.
- In the second part of the letter briefly state the skills that will specifically meet the department's needs.
- There is no need to go into great detail; the resume should take care of that. Be sure to emphasize the specific skills possessed that match the job posting minimum qualifications. This is critical and can be done by listing each MQ and the experience that matches.
- Use this section to highlight how talents and experience will benefit the department.
- Do not overly state the benefit of being employed--with a stack of resumes and a position to fill, the committee is not concerned with personal fulfillment.
- Keep the use of the personal pronoun "I" to a minimum. Try to use it in this sense: "This is how I can be of benefit to you."
Make a Plan:
- Close the letter by indicating what could happen next; the hope to hear from the committee regarding an interview.
- Some applicants may want to use a paragraph to explain anything that's not apparent from the resume, such as large gaps in the employment history, etc.
Formatting Cover Letters:
There is no "official" format for cover letters. Here are some basic rules to keep in mind when composing a cover letter:
- A three line block in the top right hand or left hand corner of the page containing: home street address; city, state and ZIP code; and the date. (The date may be separated from the block by one line.)
- Another three-line block, flush left, one space below the date and one space above the greeting. This block contains the addressee's full name and address, including city, state and ZIP code.
- Include a line: "Re:" posting title and number
- The greeting should be addressed in a formal manner. "Dear Search Committee:" or "Dear Committee Chair:" would be appropriate.
- Use a personalized salutation (not, for example, "To Whom It May Concern").
- A line of spaces should separate paragraphs; indentation is not necessary.
- Bullets and bold print in the body of the cover letter may be used to organize and highlight information, and make it easier to read, but do so conservatively.
- The closing should read "Sincerely," or "Respectfully" followed by a hand written signature underneath, then the full name in print underneath that. Always leave enough room for the signature between the closing and the typed name when printing the cover letter.