Your resume is a compilation of credentials that lets potential employers know what you have achieved. Your cover letter tells them why your achievements are important and why you are a good fit for the position you are applying for. It acts as your spokesman and markets you to prospective employers.
A good cover letter should have three sections: a brief opening, middle and a closing. Each part contains crucial information and needs to be strongly worded.
The Opening Paragraph
It is here that you clearly identify the position you are applying for. Tell the reader how you learned about the job. If you are responding to an ad you saw or if a friend referred you, say so. More importantly, explain why you are interested in the job or in this company in particular. Make them believe you want to work at this company, in this position.
The Middle Paragraph
This is really where you sell yourself. Explain why you are the right candidate for the job. Using key words from the job description highlight your skills or education that makes you a good choice. Talk about one or two of your past achievements that have direct bearing on what they are seeking in an employee. If they are seeking analytical skills and you found a way to save your last company a large sum of money by revamping their processes, this is a good time to point it out.
Don’t be modest. If you don’t think enough of your achievements or skills to mention them, then how will they know or why would they care. Discuss your skills and the reasons they make you a good match. Focus on your positive characteristics and the impact they could have for the company.
The Closing Paragraph
This is not the place to get mushy or verbose. Keep your closing succinct and sincere. You want to thank them for reading your resume and considering you. Make sure to state that you are willing to provide any additional information they may require. This might include references, verification of school credentials and so on. Include information on how you can be contacted.
Your cover letter is like your agent. It is there to get their attention and make them want to meet you. Read it over carefully. Are you someone you would want to meet if you were the person doing the hiring? If not, do some editing and have some trusted friends and colleagues look it over before sending it in.