Struggling to write a cover letter?
You're not alone. Based on the dozens of inquiries I get every week on this subject, here are four common cover letter questions, with answers to guide you.
Q. How can I write a cover letter that really stands out in this economy?
A. You can build instant rapport with your reader -- and get more interviews -- if you demonstrate knowledge of the company you're applying to.
Use the Internet, your local library and your personal network as research tools. Then, include observations or suggestions in your cover letter that prove you understand the company, its products, problems and opportunities.
Q. The classified ad asks me to include a salary history. What should I do?
A. This is somewhat controversial, but I advise you not to answer questions of salary.
Reason? Employers ask about salary to screen out candidates who are over- or under-qualified (in their minds). But how can they judge you properly before they've met you?
Instead, I recommend you say this: "My salary requirements are negotiable." This shows you've read the question and have politely deferred answering until you're called for an interview.
Q. How long should my cover letter be?
A. Limit yourself to one page. Doing so proves you can prioritize your thoughts and present them concisely -- both admirable qualities. Also, it shows respect for your busy reader, who may have 100 more cover letters and resumes to wade through.
Q. Should I follow up after sending a cover letter and resume?
A. Yes! Any job worth having is worth competing for. If you inform the reader that you'll be calling in two days to answer any questions, you'll set yourself apart from 90-95% of other applicants, who simply wait for the phone to ring.
To get your resume read, and to get that job interview, your cover letter must stand out, by quickly conveying your enthusiasm and competence. Follow the suggestions above and you can do just that!
Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free Guerrilla Job Search audio CD, visit MyNewJobHunt.com.