Cover Letters.....Differentiate Yourself!
One very effective personal marketing tool that many people fail to include with their resume is the cover letter. Considering that up to 70% of one persons decision to extend an offer to another is based on personality and attitude, doesn't it make sense to include a summary of what you're like as a person? The resume is an effective tool when it comes to presenting technical qualifications, but it falls short when it comes to presenting you as a person. This is where the cover letter can be of great benefit. To give you an idea of what types of things to include, I have put together a short list of some possible areas or subjects to cover. Feel free to use whatever is pertinent to you and you feel comfortable with.
- Describe yourself in terms of likes and dislikes, both personal and professional. (hobbies, training, special interests, etc.)
- Describe your strengths.
- Describe what excites you.
- Describe personal and professional goals.
- Describe what you're looking for in a new situation.
- Describe your work habits.
If you can paint a clear picture of what you're like as a person, you are miles ahead in the game. I've often asked hiring authorities and human resource managers, "What gets your attention when looking through a stack of resumes?" The most common answer by far is "A good cover letter." It is definately an excellent way of moving your resume to the top of the stack! Below is an example of what a cover letter may look like.
To whom it may concern,
I noticed your advertisement for a software systems engineer at the virtual career fair. The reason it caught my eye was not only because it's in an area that I have over five years experience in, but it looked as though long term, it may fit in with my personal career goals as well. I am a dedicated worker and take a great deal of pride in a job well done. I prefer to work in a close-knit team environment and thoroughly enjoy a challenging assignment.
My current situation does not offer the team environment that I'm looking for, although the work is challenging and stimulating. I would prefer to stay in an area that allows me to contiue coding in addition to the more strategic aspects you mentioned in your description. If I were to make a move right now, it would be to a company that is definately forward looking with a strong team environment, that still offers the opportunity for individual achievement.
My future goals are to move more toward the business side, possibly into product management or strategic planning, but that is still a few years down the road. Right now, I still feel like I have alot to contribute on the technical side.
I'm really looking forward to meeting with you to discuss the details of the position at your earliest convenience. Please feel free to call me at work or home if you have any further questions.
R. Michael Lewis
This type of letter is straight forward and to the point. It gives them a number of reasons why they should talk to you and lets them know that your serious about the opportunity and not just "window shopping." Which, by the way, is one of their main concerns. There are many different formats to use, this was just an example of one. Get creative, come up with one of your own or use this as a guideline, but use one. It could be the difference in getting you through the door.