Cover Letters: Just How Important Are They?

Larry Barkdull
Award-Winning, Nationally Recognized Writer

Nothing is more disheartening than seeing your resume thrown onto a mountain of job applications. You wonder, "Will I ever receive an interview? How could I possibly get a job?"

Here's the answer: Write an effective resume cover letter.

A potential employer's first impression of you is your cover letter. Your cover letter introduces you and your resume. The stark reality is your resume may never be read without its being accompanied by a professional cover letter. Without a resume cover letter, you might never receive a callback. Here are two things to remember:

  • The purpose of a cover letter is to get your resume read
  • The purpose of a resume is to get an interview.
  • The purpose of an interview is to get a job.

Cover letters carry more weight than resumes

Your resume cover letter is a sales letter. It sells your resume; therefore it sells you. A common mistake made by job hunters is either neglecting a cover letter with their resume or writing a poor cover letter.

Important Cover Letter Tips

Here are some basic things to know about and include in your cover letter:

  • Write your cover letter on white bond paper.

  • A resume cover letter should be only one page in length.

  • Your cover letter heading should be identical to your resume heading. Headings should include your name and contact information.

  • Use a business format for dating and addressing your cover letter to the appropriate person. List his/her correct position. "Mr. Ronald Jones, director of personnel."

  • Your cover letter salutation should be "Dear Mr. Jones:" or "Dear Mrs. Smith:". If you do not know the marital status of a female interviewer, the safe salutation is "Dear Ms. Smith:". Use a colon after the name and not a comma.

  • A resume cover letter is a business letter. Use formal block (not indented) paragraphs with spaces in between.

  • Your cover letter should consist of three paragraphs:

    1. Cover letter introduction paragraph

      State the position you are applying for.

      State why you are applying and how you learned about the position.

      If you can, drop a name. (Be sure you have permission.)

      Do a little research and say something about the company.

      Say that you are a strong candidate because of your qualifications, education, experience, interests, etc.

    2. Cover letter job-matching paragraph

      Now briefly expand on your qualifications, education, experience and interests, especially those that match the employer's needs. You want to appear as the perfect applicant. Additionally, cover letters should call out other key parts of your resume that you want the employer to notice.

    3. Cover letter "close" paragraph

      Close your resume cover letter with a bold statement that you are a strong match for the job position.

      State that you are looking forward to meeting with him/her.

      Take the aggressive: Say that if you don't hear from him/her in 7-10 days, you will follow up.

  • End your cover letter with:


    (four returns-hit the "enter" key four times)

    (your name)

Resume cover letters for Internet job applications

Can you use this same procedure and format when you are applying for a position over the Internet? Yes! Whether you are applying in person or long distance, you want to demonstrate that you have sterling qualifications and that your communication skills are excellent.

Cover letters showcase your resume and open the door for an interview. The rest is up to you.

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