Good cover letters get applicants a foot in door


June 02, 1991|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

You've updated your resume, practiced your interviewing skills and carefully researched the company to which you're about to apply. Now all you have to do is write a cover letter to go with your resume -- something far too many job applicants skip.

This is not surprising, since writing this letter is always an agonizing experience. You're writing to a complete stranger who can give you a chance to interview or turn you away. You don't want to sound too familiar or too stuffy, too unconcerned or too desperate, too meek or too aggressive, too self-confident or too timid.

But remember: Anyone who sends a resume to a company without a well-written cover letter stands little chance of getting an interview, anyway.

Here, therefore, are some of the do's and don'ts of writing a cover letter:

* Write one! No matter what. Cold resumes accompanied by no letter almost always make a fast trip to the nearest trash can.

* Know ahead of time what points you need to make, then get to them quickly. Put the important facts about yourself at the top of your letter.

* Keep your language down-to-earth and simple. Use short sentences, short paragraphs and simple, powerful words.

* Stick to the point. If you're applying for a job in data processing, tell the person to whom you're writing why you're qualified to be a data processor.

* Avoid hyperbole and self-congratulation.

* Don't discount yourself, on the other hand. Never apologize for your credentials, training or experience.

* Check your spelling and grammar. Carefully! Even a small mistake can seriously jeopardize your chances of getting a job interview.

* Don't announce that you'll be calling. Standard procedure still is: "Don't call us; we'll call you."

* Finally, read your letter out loud to a friend before you send it. Does it sound respectful, informative, straightforward and easy to read? Congratulations! You've just increased your chances of landing a job interview by at least 50 percent.

Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.

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