When it's time for you to look for a new job, cover letters count. While resumes might provide the information potential employers are seeking, they may never even look at your resume if your letter of introduction doesn't catch their attention.
Because the cover letter is often your earliest written contact with the hiring party, it creates that all-important first impression. Every word in a short letter is critical, so take your time writing it and be sure to pick and choose what words will work best.
Remember to correctly address the person who will most likely be reading the letter. If you know his or her name, you should always use it -- for example, "Dear Ms. Taylor" or "Dear Mr. Turner." However, if you don't have a name, stick to "Dear Sir or Madam" or "Dear Hiring Manager."
Once you have addressed your audience, launch right into your introduction. Be sure to mention the job you want, how you heard about the position, and then briefly list your specific qualifications and goals. Suggest some points on your resume that they might want to remember about you. If you have something positive to say about the company, put that in, too.
A 2014 CareerBuilder survey shows there are some words you shouldn't use when you are seeking a job. Those to avoid include the tired terms: go-getter, detail-oriented and team player. The better words were: achieved, created, managed, trained and mentored.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of "Emotional Intelligence 2.0" and co-founder of TalentSmart, points out that some words are used incorrectly (for example, the verb affect and the noun effect) and can "land like fingernails across a chalkboard" on everyone who reads them. So, if you are uncertain about how to word something, always look it up or hire an editor or a grammar expert to review what you've written. If you are working with an employment agency, ask them to read it over as well.
Job search employment expert Alison Doyle also suggests leaving off personal information and instead focusing on the credentials you have that match the position. Do not mention salary requirements unless the company asks for them. Finally, don't write too much. Be concise and keep the letter to just a few paragraphs.
Close the letter by thanking the decision-maker for considering you and then suggest an interview. Moreover, indicate that you hope to hear from them soon. Say something like, "I am confident that my professional background will make me an asset to your company" or "I look forward to hearing from you so that we can schedule an interview."
You don't have to write a new letter every time you apply for a job. If you have an outstanding "standard" letter that has gotten the attention of previous employers, use it again. However, make sure to change the letter enough to personalize it to the position you are seeking.
Finally, remember to proofread. If your cover letter has even one typo, then your application might be discarded. So choose your words carefully and be sure you draw the reader in. Your goal is to get someone to read your resume. Your writing should accurately reflect who you are and what you can offer in the workplace, and it should be interesting enough to rival the dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of other cover letters from potential employees.