II. Prepare a good cover letter.
a. Don’t forget what you learned about crafting a good resume.
This is your introduction to potential employers, supervisors and colleagues. Grammar and spelling are essential. So is professionalism.
b. Write, as much as possible, a fresh cover letter for every resume you submit.
Copying and pasting most likely will get you into trouble. For example, do you really want to send a letter to FedEx explaining how much you want to work for UPS because you forgot to edit that particular item out of your cover letter when you copied and pasted? If it’s too much for you to write a new letter for a potential employer, you don’t want the job badly enough.
c. Be professional.
A cover letter is not an opportunity for you to be cute and funny. You’re generally better off avoiding that temptation. That’s not to say that one can’t be funny and professional at the same time. It’s just more difficult than you probably realize. If you shoot for humor, aim for a smile, not a laugh.
Address the letter to the specific person who it should be addressed to. If you’re not certain who that is, call the business to which you’re applying. Make certain that you have the correct gender/sex of the person if you are the least bit unsure (e.g., Chris, Pat, Xu, Stacy). Address the letter “Dear Ms. ____” or “Dear Mr. ____” or “Dear Dr. _____.” Follow the salutation with a colon, not a comma.
e. The first paragraph.
State clearly the position for which you are applying. If you have a connection to the business or the person receiving the resume, state it here as well. Do this only if you have cleared it with that person in advance.
f. The rest of the letter.
Tell them the why you are a good match for the company, what the company can do for you and, most importantly, what you can do for the company. Demonstrate some knowledge of what the company is, what it does, where it stands in its field and among its competitors. Show that you know what the position requires. Match your skills directly to the skills of the position.
g. Use the right words.
Look at the position advertisement and use some of the exact same wording in your cover letter. If the advertisement mentions the need for “PowerPoint skills” and that “the successful applicant will create news releases” then you had better mention your experience with PowerPoint and writing news releases. If it mentions the need for a “motivated self starter,” you should use the words “motivated” and “self starter” someplace in your letter, though not necessarily side-by-side.
Want more? I’d have a hard time putting together a walk-through than you can find at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/549/02/.