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.