First, let’s review the purpose of a cover letter.  A cover letter “marries” your resume to the open position.  Put yourself in the position of a hiring manager.  If you received several resumes per day would you want to review each one and attempt to match them up to the positions open within your company?  A cover letter can also address salary issues, gaps in employment, and any other qualification discrepancies.

A cover letter should almost always be used.  The only exception is when the resume is hand-delivered to a hiring manager after a previous discussion (phone or in-person).  Although we have seen conflicting data on whether it should be sent as an attachment, etc., a formal cover letter should also accompany the resume when sent via e-mail.  We recommend sending both your resume and cover letter as an attachment, to ensure the document is received in a professional format.

Below is a list of errors to avoid when sending a resume to a potential employer:

1)    Sloppy copy – margins, font, pica, and written material.  This is one of my biggest “pet peeves.”  The first impression given to any hiring agent is based upon the overall appearance of the cover letter.  The cover letter is the first item seen before proceeding into the resume.  I can assure you that if a cover letter arrives on that person’s desk without consistent margins, font, pica, and with effective writing, these documents have the potential to be “dead in the water” before this person even thinks of turning the page.

2)  Listing unrelated skills and qualifications is probably the most common mistake candidates make.  A person can be highly skilled and educated with high achievements which pertain to their current position and/or title, however, once that person steps out of this environment into another, this information becomes less important, if not irrelevant.

3)    No contact name listed.  By not listing a contact name, this shows lack of detail, not to mention, allowing the document to float around the office rather than sitting on the desk of the hiring agent.

4)    Incorrect address.  Again, a lack of detail.  Don’t go down this path.

5)     Business format.  The lack of proper business format is another common mistake.  Utilize the same font, margins, and header to ensure the cover letter matches the resume as closely as possible.

By following these simple do’s and don’ts, the art of creating a cover letter should become quick and easy.  Before sending any documents, proofread, proofread, proofread!

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