Cover Letters Count (More Than You Think)

Cover Letters Count (More Than You Think)

By Caroline M.L. Potter, Yahoo! HotJobs

If you're like most conscientious job seekers, you've put a lot of time and effort into your resume. But have you given your cover letter its proper due? If not, reconsider and revamp this most valuable document.

According to a survey from OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in administrative professionals, 86 percent of executives polled said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates. And if you're not worried about hiring managers, you should be because your peers are using cover letters even when they apply electronically. OfficeTeam reveals that a whopping eight out of 10 managers said it is common to receive electronic resumes accompanied by cover letters.

If you're not sure what makes a cover letter great, follow these seven suggestions from the experts at OfficeTeam.

Personalize It

Instead of addressing your letter, "To Whom It May Concern," attempt to get the name of the hiring manager. OfficeTeam recommends, "If you don't know the hiring manager's name, call the company and ask."

Surf the Web with a Purpose

Put your ability to scour the Net to good use by researching your target company online. OfficeTeam advises that job seekers use what they learn to "demonstrate how [their] knowledge and skill fit the job" and could add value for that employer.

Bridge the Gap

If your resume is a bit sketchy in terms of employment gaps, your cover letter is the place to put a potential employer's mind at ease. "Explain how you filled the time," suggests OfficeTeam. "Mention professional-development courses or volunteer activities." This not only shows that you've kept your skills current but also that you weren't sitting about idly between positions.

Keep It Concise

A well-written cover letter is priceless; an overwritten cover letter will wind up in the recycling bin. OfficeTeam counsels, "Leave something for the resume." You don't have to tell your entire professional story in a cover letter, particularly when it shouldn't exceed a few paragraphs.

Make the First Move

Don't sit passively by after applying for a job. Rather, OfficeTeam advocates that you take a proactive stance and "identify next steps, such as writing, 'I'll follow up with you next week to discuss meeting in person.'"

Make No Mistake

Neither the most cautious of eyes nor spell-check program can catch every error. Before you submit your materials, read them repeatedly. OfficeTeam also proposes, "Have a friend or mentor read [them] as an added precaution."

Let the Applier Beware

If you want to increase the odds that your cover letter will be read, OfficeTeam leaders say, "When applying through online job boards, always choose the option to add your cover letter to your resume. When emailing application materials to a hiring manager, paste your cover letter within the body of your message."

Giving your cover letter the attention it deserves improves your chances of capturing a hiring manager's attention.