Writing A Resume Cover Letter

Writing a resume cover letter can leave a favorable impression in the receiver's eyes. Here are some tips on constructing a good cover letter.

If you are involved in a serious job hunt, you may have the best resume, the sharpest suit, the most polished interview style and the best references in the world, but without one simple but critical element you may not even get an appointment for an interview. This overlooked element that may make or break your job search? The cover letter.

There are several different reasons to include a cover letter in your application package, but one of the most important is implied in its very title. A good cover letter does indeed 'cover' everything else you have enclosed. The cover letter in a business setting is very close to a personal letter of introduction, but it should also account for everything else you submit. Resumes, samples, references- all of these should be acknowledged in a one or two page professional cover letter. This not only gives the recipient a chance to get his or her bearings on your application, it also protects you in case something turns up missing along the way. If you include an original drawing or sample, for example, the recipient would immediately notice it missing if you take the time to mention it in the cover letter.

So how do you go about constructing a professional letter while working on a job search?

Consider precisely what you hope to accomplish with your application, and what additional materials you will enclose to make this goal happen. Add a touch of salesmanship and a fair amount of goodwill towards the recipient and you should have a very good cover letter.

Specifically, make sure ALL of your contact information is recent and correct. The person who is listed in a job reference book or contacted you at the college job fair last year may or may not be the person you need to contact this year. Before constructing a final cover letter, doublecheck your inside address information with a representative of the company.

Once you've determined the validity of your contact information, your next step is to introduce yourself as a viable candidate for the position. You'll want to do this in the very first paragraph, so that little time is wasted trying to file your application appropriately. Use specific language in your opening lines that demonstrate your knowledge of the job opening. If you have already made other contact with the company, mention that information as well. "Dear Mr. Smith, My name is John Q. Public and I have recently graduated with honors from the business program at Hometown University. I spoke with your associate Jane Public at a recent job fair held on campus and she mentioned a possible opening in your accounting division. I would like to discuss my qualifications for this position at your earliest possible convenience..."

Of course your own information and circumstances will vary, but the important point is to keep your letter professional and specific, especially in the opening paragraph. Your recipient should be able to glean most of the pertinent information from the opening paragraph alone.

Once you've established the specific reason for your application package, then you may need to sell yourself. This should be done very tactfully, if at all. You are competing with others for a position, which means that you should demonstrate a real interest in that position. You can often sell yourself indirectly by referring to the materials you are submitting.

"As my enclosed resume and work samples will show, I have spent a great deal of time exploring some new ideas in the accounting field. I believe the skills I have developed over the course of study at Hometown would make a very good fit at a progressive firm such as Harris and Boyle..." Although it may sound as if this applicant is merely pointing out the existance of a resume and work samples, he or she is also playing up their own strengths and interests at the same time. This is a much more subtle sales approach, but should still keep the recipient interested in reading more.

The next paragraph should spell out accomplishments and goals more explicitly, along with any other pertinent background information. Again, subtle salesmanship may give you an edge. "I can honestly say that my years spent at Hometown University were satisfying both personally and professionally. I was honored to receive the Jonas Hebberhoffer prize for outstanding accounting student during my Senior year, and I am also proud of the President's Award I was given for my final grade point average. While these honors are a source of personal pride, I feel that the real credit for my successful college experience lies with the incredible staff of accounting professionals that guided me..." Maybe this sounds a little over-the-top, but it could have been much more blatant. Your resume and other application information will probably receive more weight than any cover letter you write, but it doesn't hurt to play up your skills within reason in the cover letter.

Any additional information should either clarify an important point, such as your contact information or availability, or serve as your way of leaving a good feeling with the recipient. If you can make a comment on a recent milestone reached by the company or a personal achievement made by the recipient, that should be done in your closing paragraph. "I thank you for your time and consideration of my application. Feel free to contact me at anytime should you need any more information. I understand that congratulations in order for your recent promotion to vice-president of operations. I read the account in our local newspaper and I was quite impressed to hear of your many accomplishments in the accounting field. I wish you all the best in your new position. Most sincerely,..." Close simply and professionally.

The ultimate cover letter, however, may be the one you never write. If you are fortunate enough, you may actually have a cover letter written by a current employer or a professor. These letters serve not only as personal letters of recommendation, they also bolster your standing in the professional community considerably. If you are ever offered the chance to have a cover letter written by a strong personal reference, take it without hesitation. If you believe you can approach your employer or instructor honestly, then you might solicit a cover letter from them directly. But always be prepared with one of your own, just in case.

Another variety of cover letter concerns the literary world. After the final pages of the manuscript have been proofed, the contact information checked and rechecked, the curriculum vitae polished and signed, the cover letter is one final step in the submission stage that could spell the difference between acceptance and rejection. Here's how to construct a literary cover letter that will leave the best impressions in the receiver's mind.

First, allow me to offer an overview of the cover letter's function in your writing life. A cover letter is designed to do precisely what its name implies- cover all of the pertinent details concerning your submission. It can be as simple as 'Here's the manuscript you requested' to a detailed combination of resume and curriculum vitae. The average cover letter is usually no longer than a page in length, so brevity and information are the two key elements to keep in mind when writing one. You are not trying to give a blow-by-blow synopsis of every chapter in your manuscript, nor are you trying to impress the judges with your lifetime supply of literary awards and honors. The best cover letters function as a combination of sales pitch, resume and letter of introduction.

Another important thing to keep in mind before even starting a cover letter is that they aren't always required. In fact, some editors discard cover letters that seem to be selling the writer's credentials rather than whetting an appetite for the work attached. The best way to determine whether or not to include a cover letter is to consult your Writer's Market or Poet's Market reference guides. Editors who have a strong preference either way will usually make sure the information gets into their listing. Some editors insist on cover letters, because they feel that the reading process is more human if they have some idea about the contributor's accomplishments while reading. Others feel the exact opposite way about cover letters- the less they know about the contributor the more objective they can be when deciding on acceptance.

In general, cover letters are usually welcomed unless specified otherwise. When in doubt, include a generic cover letter that introduces the work included and a brief resume of your literary achievements and publishing credits. Avoid any high-pressure sales pitches unless you are certain that the particular editor is open to them. If you know for a fact that cover letters are discouraged, don't send one anyway on the assumption that you will have a tactical advantage over your competition. Rules are rules.

In my own experience as a poetry writer, I have found that cover letters are not especially necessary when submitting a standard batch of poetry or a few short stories to a smaller press or magazine. Poetry and short story editors generally receive a tremendous amount of material, both solicited and unsolicited, so the chances that they will take the time to read your cover letter are slim to none. Cover letters find their best audience with non-fiction and full-length fiction editors. These editors and publishers work at a different pace, so a well-written cover letter is bound to get noticed. Non-fiction editors are especially eager to hear about a contributor's qualifications and publishing credits, because they also need a list of writers who will work on assignment. A cover letter can be your first introduction to the world of assigned writing.

Now that you have an understanding of the history and function of a cover letter, it's time to create one of your own. Since there are so many variables involved, you may have to adjust this advice accordingly to fit your particular needs.

Here's how to construct an effective cover letter:

1. Start out with the standard business address form. Your complete address, including name, street address, email address and phone/fax number should be in the upper right hand corner, aligned from the center of the paper. If this information is already contained in a letterhead, skip this step entirely. Skip a few spaces and then write the entire name and contact information of the intended recipient. This should be aligned from the left margin. Make sure that you have the most current contact information possible- editors and publishers can change from month to month in some cases. When in doubt, address your letter to the appropriate "Poetry Editor" or "Non-Fiction Editor" or "Lifestyles Editor", but only if you absolutely cannot uncover the proper name of the editor in question.

2. Skip a space, then write a standard salutation. 'Dear Mr. (Ms.) Smith'. Do not use this opportunity to stick in a personal attention getter: "Boy are you in trouble!" or "HOLD THE PRESSES!" Only use first names if you already have a good working relationship with the intended recipient.

3. Begin your opening paragraph with either an introduction or a subdued sales pitch. "Enclosed you should find the final draft of my Romance novel entitled Faith and Roses. I have been writing in the Romance genre for over 10 years now, with several titles still in print at ParrotHead Press. I believe that you will find Faith and Roses to be a good read for the teen market as well as the standard demographic, because the heroine is a teenaged princess herself..." Or you could try a more blatant sales approach, if your publishing record is not as long. "Imagine if you will a young princess trapped in the desert after a sudden sandstorm. Her only hope for rescue- a brash and arrogant Bedouin soldier who only lives for gold and power. Will her sincere heart win over the hardened soul of her rescuer, and will she ever see her beloved kingdom again? The answers can be found in my new book Blood and Sand..."

If your manuscript has been solicited, however, you'll want to adapt a much more professional tone in your opening paragraph. "As per our earlier conversation, I am enclosing the final draft of the manuscript Blood and Sand. The proposed changes have been made, and I believe you will find the manuscript to be up to the standards of ParrotHead Press..." Some cover letters are indeed formulaic and generic, which is not to be mistaken for ineffective. If you are simply submitting a standard manuscript for an editor's approval, you can always use a standard business form for your cover letter.

4. Once you've covered the manuscript itself, the next paragraph should emphasize your own skills or background. Again, keep it short and professional. If you have a special qualification or area of expertise pertaining to the submitted manuscript, now is the time to mention it. "As a full-time professor in the English department at Duke University, I've had the honor of meeting many of our leading authors and artists..." "I first became interested in African studies as a young tour guide in a local museum. Now that I have been on several safaris myself, I believe I have a better understanding of African jungle culture..." If you have a few awards or previous publication credits, you may mention them, but anything more substantial should be included in an attached resume or curriculum vitae. "As my attached resume will bear out, I have had several successes as an author and lecturer.' The second paragraph should cover your personal accomplishments in a brief and humble manner.

5. Use the last paragraph to issue special instructions, compliment the receiver or thank the editor for his time and consideration. This is the 'leave a good taste in their mouth' portion of a cover letter. You'll want to thank the recipient for a previous good deed (quick response, kind critique) or pre-thank them for future actions (careful consideration, review). If you have established an informal relationship with the editor, you might end with a lighthearted discussion of a personal issue. "Here's hoping that your son has a winning season this year." "Thank you for considering this manuscript, and I look forward to another wonderful conversation at the next convention." You might also congratulate the publishing company for reaching a business milestone or anniversary. Whatever you say in your closing paragraph, make it sincere and upbeat. Don't forget to thank the recipient one last time with a closing line. "Once again, thank you so much for your careful consideration of my manuscript. I will be available at any of the contact points provided should you need any further clarification." Close with a professional signature line: "Most sincerely," "Respectfully,"


So here is a generic cover letter form that should work for most situations. Adapt this form to fit your specific needs.

Ima Busyman, fiction editor

Bigtime Press, Inc.

1509 Anywhere St.

Anytown, Alabama 35601

Dear Mr. Busyman,

Enclosed you should find my manuscript entitled "Blood on the Keyboard", a recent curriculum vitae and several ideas for cover art and promotional items. Per our conversation on

August 12, I have made several changes in the final chapter. I hope they will meet your approval. I believe "Blood on the Keyboard" will appeal to most adult readers, since it relates to the love/hate relationship many of us feel towards our computers.

I myself spent many years as a customer service representative for a computer company, so I know first-hand how frustrating these machines can be.

When I was honored with the Edward M. Hebberhoffer award for fiction last year, part of my acceptance speech dealt with technology and its effect on society. I have attached my resume and curriculum vitae, if you would like a more comprehensive listing of my academic and publishing credits.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration concerning this manuscript. Your continued support and editing skills are greatly appreciated. I recently read an article on the 50th anniversary of Bigtime Press, and I was quite impressed with your company's position on encouraging young writers. I wish you all the luck with your next 50 years.

I eagerly anticipate your decision concerning "Blood on the Keyboard". Feel free to contact me through any of the means provided on my attached resume.

Most sincerely,

Eager Writer

attachments: Resume

Curriculum Vitae

Cover art proposals (2)

© High Speed Ventures 2011