What Does the Perfect Resume Cover Letter Include?

August 19th, 2010

Have you seen such a thing as the perfect resume cover letter? If there is, how would you know it?

Okay, let’s examine what a great cover letter is made of. It is addressed to an individual in the firm at hand; it calls out an opportunity in which you have interest; it lists your qualifications for the opening; and it ends with a next step such as, “I will contact your office to schedule a follow-up.” If your resume cover letter does not contain at least these basic components, it will never get the job done.

All right, it’s time to talk about the first challenge… how should the letter be sent? Well, if the goal is the “perfect” resume cover letter, your cover letter should never start with, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager”. It should be sent to a specific individual in the company. For the best results, this will be the manager who will be hiring for the position, the individual to whom the new employee will report. Your second choice is a key manager in the department or a manager that will send your resume on receipt to someone who will find your qualifications of interest. At a minimum, you can send your resume and resume cover letter to a contact in the human resources department. This at least will get your resume cover letter a brief reading before it gets passed on or dumped into the candidate management system used by the firm.

If you have a friend employed at the firm, see if you can’t get them to receive and forward on your credentials. Or, get a contact name and email address from them and ask if you can use their name in the email… “I received your contact information from Ben Brackman, your VP of Sales.” An introduction like that will usually get your resume cover letter read and forwarded to the appropriate manager. Please don’t presume that you have no contacts at the firm. Check out popular networking websites like LinkedIn or Plaxo which allow you to search by firm. These sites will not only list current employees, but will tell you if a person has previously worked at a firm. There could be an acquaintance you know quite well that left the employer on good terms that can give you a contact and let you use them as a reference.

If you can’t identify someone at the firm, how can you come up with the name and email address of someone in the company? This is fairly easily done these days with the wealth of information published on the internet. All you have to do is spend some time on the company’s website and an internet search engine like Google. You can most likely find the information you want on the “about us”, “management team”, “contact us”, or “news” pages of the company’s website. Most firms have a pattern to the their email addresses (something like firstname.lastname-at-company.com or firstinitial+lastname-at-company.com). When you have the template used for email addresses and the name of your contact you can construct their probable email address with a high level of confidence. You can often have a little challenge with nicknames; often “Robert” will go by “bob” in his email address. If this is an executive, sometimes the mail server will be set up to send emails addressed to either name through. On the occasion you send an email and it is returned undeliverable, you can try again with a different pattern.

This approach should get your resume cover letter and resume in the door. In coming discussions we’ll talk about what should be in your resume cover letter so that your resume gets read.

MyExecutiveCompass is an employment portal dedicated to helping job seekers differentiate themselves in today’s competitive market. Candidates can find approaches on how to overcome many job search challenges as well as cover letter templates and resume software to make the job search process easier.

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