Cover LetterThe first impression you leave on a potential employer when looking for work online is not your resume or user profile, but rather your cover letter.  Resumes and profiles are succinct listings of professional accomplishment, but don’t say much about an applicant’s personality, work ethic, interests and talents.  Therefore, a cover letter is your place to shine.

A cover letter should ALWAYS accompany a resume or link to an online profile.  Lack of a cover letter leaves buyers with the impression that the applicant is lazy or that he or she isn’t really that interested in the position.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, endless cover letters that read like a provider’s autobiography are unlikely to be read in their entirety.  Employers are generally busy people, who don’t have time to comb through a long letter and pick out the few facts about an applicant that interest them.

An applicant has an average of 20 seconds to wow an employer.  It is, therefore, the provider’s responsibility to completely read through a job description and respond to it with a letter that consolidates all of his or her professional training and experience relevant to the job.  The letter should also be used to answer any questions posed in the job listing.  A well written and pertinent cover letter demonstrates that an applicant has fully read and understood the job description and is confident of his or her ability to carry out the duties required of the position.

Cover letters should be dynamic and specific to each job position and buyer.  They should also be as concise and a maximum of one page, although half a page is the recommended length.  Limiting paragraphs to one to four sentences also makes the cover letter easy for potential employers to skim and process.

Personal introduction: start your cover letter by sparking the buyer’s interest instantly:
• Briefly introduce yourself
• Mention the position for which you are applying.
• Transition into describing the traits, qualities and experiences that will make you stand apart from other providers.

I am an expert web designer interested in the web development job you’ve posted.  I am certified in five different programming languages, and am an expert in Dreamweaver and Photoshop.  I have designed and built 80 websites to date.

Qualifications: The second section should be used to delve a little deeper into professional and academic qualifications.  Stress accomplishments rather than explaining your duties and responsibilities in past positions.

I have a Masters degree in Computer Sciences from Harvard and have worked in this field for 10 years.  I worked three years for Accenture, where I was promoted to Lead Programmer within one year of joining the company.  In 2006, I started my own web design and IT consuling firm, which currently has completed 60 jobs for 45 clients in 12 countries.

Fit: you want to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the position being filled.  Explain why you are suited to working with the company and to the position advertised.

Call for action: end your cover letter should incite the buyer to take action:
• Request an interview.
• Ask the employer if he or she would be interested in seeing additional samples of work.
• Let the employer know that you are available to answer any questions or clarify anything that may be left unclear (although your letter should leave everything crystal clear).

• If the job posting provides a name, address the letter to that individual.
• Unless you’re confident you know their gender, don’t take for granted that the person reading your letter is male; be gender neutral.
• Always re-read and check your letter for typos and grammatical mistakes.

If you follow these suggestions and don’t clutter your letter with unnecessary information, you are more likely to compose a concise, informative and successful cover letter.  It’s your personal marketing piece; treat it as such!

-Justine Bayod Espoz, Guest Blogger