Before you decide that your cover letter is only a supporting player in your job search, keep these considerations in mind.
A resume is a kind of dry report, or a formal profile. It’s a list of stats that can summarize what you’ve done and what you’re able to do in the future, something like the data points on the back of a baseball card.
But your cover letter is like the photo on the front of the card: it shows you in action. It’s a full color motion shot that explains who you are and gives your reader a sense of what you might be like to work with. Your letter shows how well you write and how clearly you articulate a thought, and it provides a snapshot of how you’ll make an argument, support a claim, or present yourself on the job.
An effective cover letter tells a story, or at least the first few chapters of a story. And like any good story, your letter should stay at the forefront of your reader’s thoughts after she puts it down. Ideally, she’ll be so interested in hearing more about you and getting to know you in person that she’ll pick up the phone and call you in for an interview.
Your cover letter should spark your reader’s imagination. “Picture this,” says your letter. “Five years down the road, this company is growing by leaps and bounds. The new product line has exploded onto the market with record-breaking results. Revenues are up in every sector. And you, my manager, are being presented with an award at the annual sales meeting because of the amazing contributions you and your team have made for the company. That vision can come true…if you hire me.”
You don’t have to word your letter in quite this way, but no matter how the message is delivered, it shows your reader what the future will look like with you on the team.
Even if you don’t get the job (for any reason, including a large applicant pool or insurmountable odds), your letter can still have a positive impact on your career. Even in big cities, most industries involve surprisingly small social spheres, and every interaction between you and another person in your field can have a ripple effect.
Keep every interaction positive, including this one. Give your reader a reason to associate your name with good memories and a sense of respect. Someday in the future, you may be glad you did this.
Visit LiveCareerfor guidelines and tools that can help you shape your message and take your cover letter—and your career—to the next level.