Dear Sam: I have heard no one reads a cover letter. Is that true? If so, do I need to take the time to write one? — Warren

Dear Warren: A cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself to a prospective employer, expand upon and personalize your resume, provide the narrative your resume does not often allow, and highlight how your skills and experiences fulfill the employer’s needs. A cover letter should be a crucial part of every application. While it is true that only half of the hiring managers read cover letters, we are playing to that 50% of your audience who look at the message for additional information on the value of your candidacy. For that half of your audience, they enjoy reading a cover letter, and learning about what we call your “transitions, additions, and losses.” Keep in mind that a cover letter not only expresses your interest in the company and/or position, but it also gives the employer the opportunity to observe your attentiveness to detail, spelling, grammar, and quality of your written communication.

When writing your cover letter, there are many strategies you can employ in the development and organization of the content. Here are some guidelines:

1) Open the letter noting your key qualifications and the position of interest. Use the first paragraph to capture the recipient’s attention and make them want to read more. To do this well, you must clearly understand your key qualifications, the position of interest, and the intended audience.

2) Use the center section of your cover letter to explore your experiences, successes, and the skills that supported your performance. I will often use bullet points to focus the hiring manager’s attention on the most important information.

3) Tailor your cover letter to the position and/or company. If you have a clearly defined goal, that does not mean you have to rewrite your entire cover letter, but be sure the skills highlighted are those most relevant to the opportunity of interest.

5) Keep it brief. Generally, cover letters should be no more than one page.

5) Do all you can to acquire the name of the hiring manager and address your cover letter appropriately.

6) Use the same heading from your resume to present a clean and professional package.

I hope that helps you develop a well-structured and highly effective introduction tool.