The Function of a Cover Letter
The primary purpose of a cover letter is to get the employer interested in reviewing your resume, and ultimately to get you an interview. To that end, a cover letter summarizes both your knowledge of the position and the organization to which you are applying, AND it highlights the skills which best qualify you for the job. The cover letter should be congruent with the “Objective” section of your resume.
The Content of a Cover Letter
A cover letter must be concise- never more than one page, ideally a few succinct paragraphs. It is best to address the letter to the person doing the hiring rather than “to whom it may concern” or “dear sir or madam.” Be sure to find out the hiring person’s name and exact title.
The cover letter opens with a statement of why you are writing (i.e. to apply for a position with Company X). Include information on how you heard of the position.
Ex: “I am writing to apply for the position of Plant Biochemist with Monsanto as listed in the July 1997 issue of Science.”
“Dr._________________ suggested that I contact you regarding the recent opening of an Associate Scientist position with Schering-Plough Research Institute.”
The middle section of the cover letter informs the employer why you are interested in the particular position and their organization, and includes a few brief examples of why your skills and experience fit the position and/or the company. Here you are identifying the match between you and the position they are offering (and therefore pointing out why they should interview you). Again, remember to be concise: this section should not be a repetition of the information on your resume, but rather a “teaser” to interest the person in reviewing the resume. Ex: “I believe that my education, skills and experiences in the field of _______ would be very valuable to your company. In particular, my work with __________” (describe examples of past experiences and relevant skills which qualify you for the position).
The closing section of the cover letter indicates what follows the cover letter (i.e. your resume, CV or other application materials) and also includes a statement of a plan for follow-up. Ex: “Enclosed you will find my resume for your review. I will call you next week to follow up on my application. OR “Enclosed you will find my resume for your review. I look forward to an opportunity to meet with you and discuss my qualifications in further detail.”
Joe B. Applicant