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A good cover letter should be like a book cover. The cover entices you to look inside and to ultimately buy the book. The corollary is the cover letter, it persuades the reader to review the resume and will lead to an interview. One of recruiters’ top pet peeves is long cover letters that lead to even longer resumes. Cover letters that are self-promoting and impersonal will lead to the resume being tossed.

This column will explain the process of submitting a resume with a cover letter. If you are submitting your resume to a job posting or sending your resume cold to a targeted company, the process is the same.

  1. Your resume is the starting point.
    Remember the shopping mall maps that state: You Are Here. Your resume should state: I am here. Do not list your career objectives or position desired on your resume. The resume should not list where you want to go. This information should always be listed on your cover letter. A big turn-off for recruiters and staffing managers is a resume that is just re-stating the cover letters highlights.

  2. Your cover letter is the road map.
    Great cover letters are precise, focused and brief. Your inquiry should be job-specific if responding to an ad or Web site. If applying cold, your letter should state the reasons why you want to work for that company. Stating your understanding of the company’s current events, such as new products or industry news, will get you a review. KISS: Keep it Simple Sempre. State the reason why you’re applying. Target your cover letter to state your career objective.

    Employers spend very little time on reading long, canned, cliches or duplicate resume information. Sending a vague cookie-cutter type letter can seal your doom. Every letter should be personalized with the person’s name and title. A poor cover letter is enough to get your resume tossed, without consideration.

    You must highlight your successes and skills. Stating why you are the person to hire is essential, but don’t brag. We have all experienced products that were oversold to us and didn’t live up to the advertisement.

  3. Your interview is the destination.
    The ultimate goal of your cover letter and resume is for you to arrive for an interview. Your cover letter and resume should work in tandem to accomplish this. Like links in a chain, if one is weak, you will not reach your destination. Both documents must be spell-checked every time you edit them. Always have a friend or colleague proofread for typos and incorrect grammar.
[QUICK TIP] You can absolutely guarantee that your resume will be reviewed and receive extra attention if you can mention any connection between you and the hiring decision-maker. Also, mention any connection to senior managers or business partners. That’s the reason why personal networking is so powerful. Name-dropping is a powerful tool to get your resume considered. Caution: If you stretch the facts or get too creative on the connection, you’re toast.

PLEASE NOTE: emails received become the property of "Dear Headhunter" and may be published unless otherwise requested. Questions may be edited for content and length. All questions will be reviewed, some without a reply.

George Gurney has been a leader in the employment industry since 1976. He founded an executive search firm that conducts domestic and international assignments.  He has won numerous awards for recruiting excellence.  He has been a guest speaker at national conventions and seminars.