While your resume is a summary of your credentials, your cover letter should essentially be a
sales pitch. Your aim is to demonstrate why your skills and your background make a perfect
match for the position you're applying for.
The cover letter is not the place to summarize your background--you have already done this in
your resume. Remember, employers typically receive hundreds of resumes for each job opening.
You must stand out from other job seekers in a positive way.
The best way to distinguish yourself is to highlight one or two of your accomplishments or
abilities that show you are an above-average candidate for this position. Stressing only one or
two unique attributes will increase your chances of being remembered by the recruiter and
getting to the interview stage, where you can elaborate on the rest of your accomplishments.
You can also gain an extra edge by showing that you have some specific knowledge about the
company and industry. This shows that your are genuinely interested in the job you are applying
for--and that you are not blindly sending out hundreds of resumes. More importantly, the
employer will view your interest as an indication that you are likely to stay with the company for
a substantial period of time if you are hired.
10 Key Details to Remember
When to send a cover letter: always mail a cover letter with your resume. Even if you are
following up an advertisement that reads simply "send resume," be sure to include a cover letter.
It is not professional to send out a resume without one.
Length of the cover letter: four short paragraphs (on one page) is the ideal length for a cover
letter. A letter any longer than that is unlikely to be read.
Paper size: use standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper for your cover letter. If you use a smaller size, the
correspondence will appear more personal than professional; a larger size would simply look odd.
Paper color: like your resume, white and ivory are the only acceptable paper colors for a cover
Paper quality: as with resumes, standard, inexpensive office paper (20 pound bond) is generally
acceptable for most positions. Executive and top-level positions may require more expensive
Preprinted stationery: unless you're a top level executive with years of experience, you should
avoid using preprinted stationery.
Typing: your best options are to use a high-quality office typewriter, a word processor with
letter-quality type or a word processing program on a computer with a letter-quality printer.
However, the quality of the type on your cover letter is not as crucial as it is on your resume. A