Three Must-Have Cover Letters

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Salt and pepper. Peanut butter and jelly. Resume and cover letter. Some things just go together. One of the three types of cover letters should always accompany a resume in job search activities. Cover letters come in different “flavors” depending on their use and target audience. Let’s go over the main three cover letters you need for your job search.
1 – General Cover Letter. This letter is written to support the resume and has the broadest use in job search. When contacting a company “cold”, a general cover letter is your best bet because the primary purpose is to introduce you and highlight some key points brought into the resume. Sometimes referred to as a “broadcast letter”, it can be used when sending your resume to many recipients at once in a mass mail, too. 
While general in nature, this cover letter should be “employer focused” meaning the wording shows the reader how the company could benefit from the job seeker’s experience. A general cover letter does not mention specifics such as salary requirements but may mention relocation if it is an issue. Just as objectives are not used on resumes, language detailing the desires of the job seeker such as “I’m looking for a permanent position with a stable company” should be avoided. The cover letter is a sales document that grabs attention; communicates a professional, intelligent message; and shows the benefits of the “product” (the job seeker). 
The general cover letter should always end on a proactive note stating the job seeker’s intention to follow up with the employer rather than closing with a passive “I await your call” message. End the letter with a specific message about when and how you will follow up and then make sure to follow through. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and the squeak starts right here in the cover letter. How many job seekers say “I will follow up with you by email next Wednesday” and then actually do it? Very few! That’s why it makes you stand out when you actually do what you say you will do.
2 – Targeted Cover Letter. When answering a specific job advertisement or responding to an opening for which you have details, a Targeted Cover Letter is the one to use. A targeted letter can be morphed from a General Cover Letter but the content will change to some degree. First of all, the Targeted Cover Letter will mention the specific opening by job title in the first sentence so the reader knows it is a response to the advertisement. It is important for the reader to understand right away which position is being targeted.

Second, the Targeted Cover Letter will bring in specific qualifications which correspond to requirements outlined in the advertisement. For example, if a job ad states “3-5 years’ experience in Accounts Receivable” as a top requirement, the Targeted Cover Letter would include verbiage that draws attention to qualification in that area; perhaps something like “While the position requires 3-5 years’ experience in AR, I can offer you that and more. My background in Accounts Receivable encompasses almost 7 years of managing over $500,000 in receivables and I have reduced 90-days-outstanding by over 75% over the last two years.” 

The Targeted Cover Letter can be a fantastic sales tool, especially when you possess all the “must have” requirements along with many of the additional qualifications the employer hopes to find. 
3 – Recruiter Cover Letter. A recruiter is not an employer so a cover letter that goes to a recruiter needs to be different. It is important to understand the dynamics of how recruiters work and to keep that in mind when creating this cover letter. Recruiters look for candidates for active, open positions and for positions they fill on a regular basis which can be anticipated. Recruiters do not look for jobs for candidates. The recruiter will review your resume to see if your qualifications match any active, open positions. If not, the resume is stored in the database for possible future open positions that will match up. The recruiter’s job is to vet those selectees very closely so the employer is provided with a selection of great candidates – not mediocre or “maybe” candidates. All this should be kept in mind when working with recruiters so your expectations are realistic. 
A cover letter to a recruiter will contain some information normally not included in the two previous types of cover letters. First, the target salary range should be given to the recruiter including base salary and benefits. The one issue for which a recruiter will aggressively advocate on your behalf with an employer is salary because it benefits the recruiter to attain as high a salary as possible. It is to your advantage to work with the recruiter and be open about your salary requirements from the start.
At the same time, salary is a limiting factor for recruiters. The employer gives them a range within which to work. Some recruiters only take assignments at or above certain salary levels, for instance over six-figures. The recruiter needs to know where you fall in the range and it is acceptable to state a range you are willing to consider. Remember, if you are the selected candidate, the recruiter will always try to negotiate the best salary possible for you, so be realistic and honest. 
Relocation flexibility, willingness to “pay your own freight” upon relocation, and other factors of your employment can be provided to a recruiter in the cover letter as well. If a company has stated no relocation assistance is available, knowing you are willing to foot the bill to move yourself is something the recruiter needs to know. 
Basically, there are some general guidelines that apply to cover letters. All cover letters should be kept to one page or less when printed or viewed onscreen. Just like in resumes, typos in cover letters are not acceptable. The name header of the cover letter should also match that of the resume so you have a consistent presentation. And finally, the use of “I” should be limited as much as possible so it there isn’t a repetitive sentence structure throughout the cover letter.
All these tips are important when creating and using your cover letter in a job search. Knowing which cover letter to use, how to construct it, and what to include in terms of content can give you a great advantage in the job search. Do hiring managers read cover letters? Yes, they do! Make the most of your job search and include a great one to support your efforts.