Creative Job Search: Cover Letters
Any time a resume is sent by mail it must be accompanied by a cover letter.
The resume is an impersonal description of your qualifications, much like a product brochure. When presenting the resume to an employer it needs to be personalized and targeted. The cover letter is your opportunity to personalize your resume and target your skills.
Most letter formats can be used for the cover letter; the only absolute is that it conform to accepted standards for business letters. The reader of a cover letter may be the hiring authority, an agent of the hiring authority, or an interested third party. The hiring authority is the person who has the final say in who is hired for a specific position (ultimately this is the person you want to read your resume). An agent is usually someone working on behalf of the hiring authority, such as Personnel or Human Resources, an independent agency or a subordinate. Third parties include colleagues and subordinates of the hiring authority who are assisting in the hiring, as well as networking or referral contacts. The way you craft your letter should take the reader into consideration. A cover letter may be sent in response to an advertised job opening, a referral from a networking contact, or direct to an employer.
Cover Letter Formats
Invited Letter - This letter format is used when an employer has solicited the resume for consideration. This is often in response to a want ad or publicized job listing. This style focuses on matching your qualifications to the advertised requirements of the position.
Uninvited or Cold Contact Letter - Use this format to contact employers who have not advertised or published job openings. The focus is on matching your qualifications to the perceived needs of the employer based on labor market research. This strategy requires that a phone or personal contact with the employer either precede or follow the sending of the resume and cover letter.
Referral Letter - Through networking, informational interviews and contact with employers, the effective job seeker will receive referrals to job opportunities. These referrals may be to a specific job opening (advertised or unadvertised), or to an employer who may or may not be hiring now. In a referral letter, mention to the individual who provided the information about the company or job.
Reprinted with the permission of the Idaho Department of Labor.
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