A cover letter is a letter that that you send to accompany your CV when you apply for job, whether advertised or when you are sending an unsolicited application.
Do not over look this tool as it can be a great asset in your job hunt. Your cover letter should be customised per employer. However, if you are sending a lot of CVs, this task could prove impossible. Try instead to have a cover letter per industry or per area.
Suggestion #1: Try the Convince ... That ... Because Method
A strong cover letter doesn't just create a good impression -- it helps you sell yourself. But selling yourself isn't always easy. So use a technique that marketers use to sell us stuff: the convince ... that ... because method. When drafting your cover letter, think about the following:
Whom do you want to convince?
For instance, you might be writing to a hiring manager who needs somebody with strong writing skills. By knowing your audience, you'll have the opportunity to specifically address the concerns or needs of your readers in your persuasive cover letter. One caveat: You may find job announcements that instruct applicants to send a letter to human resources, rather than provide a specific name of an individual. In these instances, you can try to track down, through company sources or networking, the name and title of a specific individual to whom you can address your letter. Otherwise, use the job description and knowledge of the company to best gauge your audience's needs.
What are you trying to convince them of?
Using the example above, you are trying to convince a hiring manager that you have terrific writing skills. You may also want the hiring manager to know about your ability to speak French and your mastery of PowerPoint, if these are skills that are relevant to the job for which you're applying. Be specific here: If you want to talk about your skills as a leader, be sure to mention a situation in which you demonstrated leadership skills. And remember to discuss the same skills that appear on your resume, providing additional information and detail in your letter.
Why should you be hired over someone else?
Here's your opportunity to make a persuasive, convincing argument and sell your unique abilities. Using the previous example, you want to convince a hiring manager that you have terrific writing skills because you've consistently written on a wide range of topics for your school's newspaper, providing valuable information to over five hundred students on a weekly basis for the past three years. Whatever your example, make sure you point out how your work made a positive difference, quantifying this difference whenever possible.
Suggestion #2: Look Sharp
Think of your cover letter as you, on paper. So you want to look your best and present a neat, professional package to your prospective employer. For starters, choose a quality paper (such as the kind used for resumes) in a conservative color (like white or ivory) to send your message, and make sure you use the same paper and font for your cover letter, resume, and envelope, since they are typically packaged together. Save the pink paper and funky font for another time, and watch smudges, crinkles, and other sloppy marks. Finally, make sure your letter is generally readable. If the font is too small (nothing less than ten points) or the letter too long (over a page, generally), you've probably alienated your audience already.
Writing a winning cover letter isn't the easiest task, but it's well worth the effort, especially when you know that it can make the difference between a good first impression and a bad one. After all, taking the time to write a great letter ensures you'll impress a prospective employer and practically guarantees a wince-free moment.