what is a cover letter

Posted: August 5, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

 

Clients often ask me to look at cover letters. In most cases, the problem is the same: Too much detail that repeats what is in the resume. A cover letter is a business document that introduces whatever it is sent with. For example, a cover letter sent by a bill collector would tell you that you have to pay a bill. A marketing cover letter would tell you why you should read a pamphlet or other brochure that is enclosed or attached.

If you’re looking for work, a cover letter should introduce your resume. Keep it short and touch on key selling points that the employer is looking for. I also like to include soft skills that are often hard to convey on a resume. For example, a cover letter is a good place to talk about being self-motivated, paying attention to detail, or describing your personality or work ethic.

If it’s true that employers scan resumes in a few seconds, why are they going to take the time to read a thick cover letter?

Posted: October 30, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Today a prospective client told me that he wasn’t getting calls because his cover letter didn’t “touch all the bases.” When I asked what he meant, the prospect began to rattle off detail after detail from his resume, a mad list of facts with no context.

I showed the prospect a couple examples of my cover letters, which are brief introductions to the resume and person sending it.  He asked, “Does this work?”  I answered by presenting a simple fact:  If employers don’t want to read long resumes, why would they want to read even longer cover letters that just repeat what is in the resume?

In any kind of business writing, a cover letter has a simple purpose:  To explain whatever is being sent with the letter.  The other thing (resume, brochure, contract) is what’s important.  Keep the cover letter tight, and readers will look at what is most important:  your resume.

Sample cover letters for

Sales

Management

Career change