The Dynamic Duo – Every Resume Needs a Cover Letter

By Peter Newfield - President of®

Sending a resume without a cover letter is like showing up at a party in your underwear -- you are sharing too much information and no one knows why. Your resume is written to present and highlight your career experience and achievements. But a cover letter’s job is to target the specific information that you would like the prospective employer to focus on.

If you are sending a resume by mail or e-mail in response to an ad you saw in an industry/trade journal or in the New York Times, that same company may also be running ads for other positions, as well. If you resume arrives on the HR Director’s desk, sans cover letter, he may not want to take the time to scan through and try to figure out which of his job openings you are applying for. With stacks of resumes and people to interview, time for second-guessing is quite limited and very counter-productive. Guess where your resume is going to end up?

If you are writing in response to a specific advertised position or you are writing at the recommendation of someone whose name will be recognized by the hiring authority, include this information in the very first sentence of your cover letter. Time is money, and the faster you can grab someone’s attention (recruiter, Personnel Manager, etc.), the more likely they will read your cover letter and review your resume. Get right to the point of why you are cluttering their desk or email with your resume by stating this fact right up front in the cover letter.

Remember that a well written cover letter is your best opportunity to focus attention to the relevant experience detailed on your enclosed resume. Why do you think you are qualified for this advertised position? Give a few examples of how your experience fits in perfectly with this job description. Present a brief outline of your related job experience and refer to specific sections of your resume.

Make sure that you have included all of the information required by the advertisement. If the ad says “relocation to Cleveland” don’t say that you would like to telecommute until your son finishes high school. Address the relocation issues, as well as any specific licenses or certifications required. If you do not have your Series 7 license but are set to take the exam shortly, give that information.

The cover letter is the only place where salary should be discussed. Salary, commissions, and bonus information is never included on a resume. If the advertisement requests salary requirements or salary history, do not ignore this in your cover letter. If you eliminate this information from your cover letter or include a wimpy, “I’m pretty open about salary and can discuss this on my interview”, chances are you will never be called for that interview.

A cover letter should be viewed as an additional marketing tool used in conjunction with your resume. The cover letter is your calling card to new opportunities and career advancement.

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Peter Newfield is President of®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for,,, and the former Resume Expert for, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: