Carry On a Conversation
Your cover letter allows you to be more conversational than within a resume; this helps! Hiring managers and other decision makers in the hiring process WILL respond to your 'voice,' which will resonate in this less formally toned document (a cover letter IS a professional document - but a bit less formal language is okay). It also allows you to drill down to the reader's pain points and focus specifically on their issues/their published requirements (implied 'issues' will be written in those position requirements/job descriptions) and how you have a unique capacity to be a solution/change agent/fixer, etc. - return on their investment.
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW, CPRW, CEIP, Chief Career Writer and Owner, Career Trend
As a Recruiter, I always want to know how someone learned about the open position. And, in some organizations, the hiring manager wants to know how the job was sourced, also, because the funding for the posting has come directly from their department's budget. They always have an eye on ROI. I suggest the applicant use one line, such as, "I learned of this position from the posting I read on Craigslist."
It is critical to mention the name of the referring employee (if applicable) in the cover letter. I've created and implemented Employee Referral Programs. So often this information gets lost and many companies draw a very hard line (i.e., do not award referral $) if there is no mention of a name from first contact.
Patty Foster, Resume ResQ
Your Cover Letter is an Opportunity
Cover letters are an incredible opportunity for internship and entry-level job seekers and should never be left out of your application. They allow you—in narrative form—to tell the employer exactly why hiring you, instead of the numerous other candidates, is a good decision.
Heather Huhman, Entry Level Careers Examiner
Entice the Reader
Write a cover letter to entice the reader; just like a sampler of dessert in a restaurant. Share enough to whet the readers appetite, so they will want more in an interview.
Lucilla Feliciano Resume Writer/Consultant
Consider What You Want to Convey
Creating a compelling cover letter begins with thinking about the main point you want to convey. For most people, that is "I'm the best person for the job." Next, you need to support that with information that makes you stand out. So don't just write about what you've done in the past; think about accomplishments that translate into what you can do for the new employer. For example, if you're looking to get a job as a business analyst, talk about processes you have created in the past and how you implemented them. Also, note the results. Bullet points can help your cover letter grab attention; so use them!"
Kristen Fischer, Author of Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes, An After-College Guide to Life
Promote Your Best Selling Accomplishments
A resume is by nature concise and uses abbreviated language; your cover letter is a platform to to demonstrate your written communication skills. Use your cover letter to highlight your "best-selling" accomplishments relevant to the position target.
Peter Hill, President and Senior Consultant, P.H.I. Consulting
Use Your Cover Letter to Your Advantage
Your cover letter is particularly important. It's the job searcher's opportunity to help the potential employer see that the applicant's skills and experience match what the employer seeks. In the current economic climate, with the scarcity of jobs, a well-written cover letter distinguishes your application. All employers know that the resume has usually been vetted by multiple reviewers, so the cover letter is your opportunity to shine and attract attention.
Susan Heathfield, About.com Guide to Human Resources
More Cover Letter Writing Tips
Perfection matters when writing cover letters. Every cover letter you write should be customized for the job you are applying for, clear and concise, grammatically correct, and error-free. Here are cover letter tips and suggestions for writing cover letters which will help you stand out from the crowd.
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Share your best tips for writing cover letters.
Review cover letter samples to get ideas for format and content for your letters. Use examples as a starting point for creating your own library of job search correspondence.
Keep copies of all your cover letters, so you know what you sent to whom.