In an age where the economy is unstable and unemployment rates are the highest since the Great Depression, a resume cover letter can make or break a persons chances of getting a job. So, it’s a wonder why so many people give the opening glance of a person’s potential so little thought. When you send a resume out for consideration it’s an introduction to what you have to offer a company. It should be short, succinct and error-free. The purpose of the cover letter is simply to introduce yourself, outline your achievements and give the reader a reason to study your resume further.

As your opening statement, it’s your turn to shine and advertise what makes you different from the pack of resumes they’re going to receive and have to wade through. With so much competition for the hiring company’s attention, you have to give them a reason to want to read your resume. It’s not meant to be a life story, that’s what the resume is. Instead, it’s an introduction to your resume, highlighting the most interesting parts.

So, what should you include in your resume cover letter? Start at the beginning with an appropriate salutation. Do not make the mistake that so many other job seekers do and start your letter with “To Whom It May Concern.” Beginning your letter that way simply tells the reader that you didn’t bother to find out who will be doing the hiring. By taking the time to find out who is doing the hiring, you will stand out from the crowd in a positive way. Give them a reason to want to interview you by starting out on a good note.

Your introductory paragraph will tell briefly where you heard about the job. If you heard about it from a friend, by all means, name drop. The hiring contact feels an unconscious need to give you more of a chance if you have a mutual contact. State, “Inside, you will find a resume for consideration in the position of ____ as mentioned to me by Fred Flintstone.” or “Please consider the following resume in the position of ____ as advertised in the Atlanta Journal today.” Hiring managers want to know how you heard about them. They also may be hiring for more than one position, so make sure that you state by name, the position title that you’re applying for.

Then, you want to briefly tell them why they should look at your resume with a blanket statement like, “I bring with me over 10 years experience in the sales field with five of that in management.” This lets them know you have experience and you were considered promotable. It also piques their interest in who you used to work for.

Your middle paragraph will be a little bit more detailed with more of your experience, education and abilities. Again, you’re just putting the highlights in that will make the reader want to look further at your resume. You may write something to the effect of “I have experience using various software programs including, Word, Excel and Microsoft Outlook.” You can also include personality type sentences that would attract a manager like, ” I am enthusiastic, well-organized and detail-oriented.” This would also be a good time to toot your own horn about any previous achievements you may have accomplished. As in, “I won salesman of the year three years in a row.” or “I increased sales in my territory by over 30% in the first three months I worked it.” These statements show ability and self pride in a good job.

Your final paragraph is simply a request for the hirer to take a look at your resume and to contact you for an interview. Thank them for their time and let them know you plan to follow up on your application. It needs to only be a couple of sentences long and should convey your enthusiasm and eagerness to get an interview. It may be as simple as, “Please review the attached resume. I look forward to hearing from you and setting up an interview to discuss your opportunities.”

Just remember that your cover letter is an employer’s first look at you. If it’s riddled with misspelled words, improper sentence structure and choppy short sentences, the impression is not going to be favorable. Once you get the hang of writing a resume cover letter, it will become easier, with only the need to personalize it to the job you’re applying for. But, it is very important that you do not use a blanket cover letter for every job as it shows lack of effort on your part and lack of enthusiasm for the job you’re applying for.

Make sure that your name, address, phone number and email are included somewhere in your cover letter in case it gets separated from your resume at some point. Another point to consider when writing out your resume is that you’re not just mimicking what you said in your resume. You want to bring out a few different points that will make them want to read your resume, as in ” I was president of my fraternity and #2 in my class.” or “I stay busy teaching the blind to read in my spare time and enjoy the interaction outside the company it affords me.” Lastly, make your tone casual and friendly, like you are talking to a friend.

Sample Resume Cover Letter