What's on this Page?
There's a boss out there somewhere sifting through a large stack of resumes. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, she's glancing at each one. Here comes yours. Will she just glance at it without a second thought? How are you going to catch her eye? What will make her stop and look? Is your resume any different from the other two dozen in her stack?
I'll tell you what will make her stop at your resume. Your resume cover letter format will. Just by having a cover letter you have just set yourself apart from the other two dozen in her stack.
Should you use resume cover letter format templates?
You have probably seen "cover letter templates" or possibly "resume cover letter format templates" online. Those might work if your information is very generic or if you're already really confident about writing a cover letter.
But "resume cover letter format templates" are even worse than resume templates for being inflexible. A cover letter is a place where you can express a part of who you are, or explain things about yourself or your resume. The format of most resumes do not allow for that kind of flexibility. That's why you need a cover letter!
We'll use Power Words to create a picture of you that is both professional and engaging. It is a picture of you that will make that boss stop shuffling through all those resumes and take a minute to look through yours.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
Cover letters tell your future employer several things. The first, and most obvious thing is that just by turning in a cover letter you are telling her that you took the extra time and effort to create one. Also, cover letters, if well written, will erase any doubt your interviewer might have had that you were sending out a “blanket” resume to several employers. In a nutshell, the cover letter tells her that you want this SPECIFIC job. Rather than just any job that happens to come along.
Name dropping... or telling them how you heard about them
How did you hear about this job? Is your cousin already working for the company? Your roommate from college? Did you hear about the company from searching online, in the newspaper, word of mouth? Cover letters can tell your interviewer those things. This should occur in the opening paragraph.
For more information about the opening paragraph, and a sample opening paragraph, click here.
Explain more about yourself
Cover letters are, additionally, a way to explain to your future employer more information about you that isn’t covered in the resume. This should happen in the second paragraph. This is where you tell your story. For example, are you applying for this job because you want to work for a summer until school starts again or because you want a permanent position working there? Perhaps your parents are ailing and you plan to move in a year or two to be nearer to them, or maybe your wife just got a job in the area and that’s why you’re moving to town. This is all helpful information for the person hiring you.
OR Explain about your skills
Third, A good resume cover letter format can also explain something in paragraph form that is only briefly mentioned in the resume. This should also occur in the second paragraph. You might, for example, spend a short paragraph explaining why it’s important that you are very experienced in working with C++, or how understated the phrase “works well with a team” is when your gift is clearly to be the glue that holds a team together and motivates them to work together positively. You can use examples here, which you can’t easily do in a resume.
OR Tell why you really want this job
In some cases, and I hope in your case, you are applying for this job because you really do want it! Perhaps when you went to college it was always your dream to work for Pixar and now is finally your opportunity to do it. Or you always admired a certain architect during your post-graduate work and now there’s an opening in his company. Maybe you’ve been working in private practice for many years and you’re looking to get into a medical group to spend more time with your family or ease the pressures of running your own business. Or your grandpa, who you always admired, worked for Boeing and now you want to follow in his footsteps. If this is the case then great! Tell your future employer what a passion you have for working for them. If you were hiring someone wouldn’t you want to know that she doesn’t just want just any old job but dreams of having THIS job? Resume cover letter format can let them know that. This should also occur in the second paragraph.
For more information about the second paragraph, and a sample second paragraph, click here.
Mention in the cover letter how you intend to follow up. If the application or position description doesn’t say something like, “Do not call” then you are given the go-ahead to initiate contacting them. Most people will write something like, “I look forward to hearing from you” but if you’re anything like me you don’t want to wait to hear from them. It drives me crazy to wait to hear from someone (I was never very good at waiting for a guy to call me when I was dating either. It drove my mother nuts). Write something like, “I will contact you in two weeks to see if you require any additional information.” Then mark your calendar, and set your smart phone to remind you to call in two weeks. This should happen in your third paragraph.
Parts of a Cover Letter
The heading should have your name, address, and contact information
Second should have the date, written all the way out like "February 8, 2011" instead of 2-8-11
When you address the person you're writing to you should include their formal title and name as well as their work address
The opening paragraph should include how you heard about the position, and/or any information about yourself you want to include in the cover letter
The second paragraph should explain why you want this specific job
The third paragraph should state what you intend to DO. This includes your request for an interview and your indication that you will be contacting them (if it is permitted)
Close with a formal ending such as "sincerely" and then both sign and type your name
For more resume cover letter format and samples, don't forget to check out my Sample Cover letters pages.