Sometimes there is confusion about the exact meaning of the
term "cover letter".
That's because when most people use that term, they don't
realize that there are two main types of cover letters.
There are "document transmittal cover letters", and there
are "resume cover letters".
DOCUMENT COVER LETTERS
A document cover letter is a letter of transmittal that
explains and conveys an attached document to a second party.
The types of documents that this type of cover letter is
used for typically include: reports, plans, legal papers,
applications, manuscripts, contracts, travel documents,
booklets, manuals, brochures, product samples, photos,
A document cover letter is normally a short one-page
business letter that very briefly explains the attached or
enclosed document(s) that is being sent. It only contains
the essential information such as why the document(s) is
being sent, what the recipient is expected to do with it,
and any applicable deadlines.
RESUME COVER LETTERS
When most people use or hear the term "cover letter" they
are thinking of resume cover letters.
Resume cover letters are used for one purpose only - to
convey resumes or curriculum vitae to prospective employers.
A resume cover letter is normally a concise one-pager that
introduces you, explains why you're writing, summarizes
your key skills, abilities and experience, and asks the
recipient to get back to you. Its main purpose is to capture
the attention of the recipient enough to get that person to
look at the attached resume with interest.
Of the two types of cover letters, by far the most commonly
requested at my Writing Help Central Web site is the cover
letter for a resume or curriculum vitae.
RESUME COVER LETTER WRITING TIPS
When drafting a cover letter for a resume or cv, there are
a number of important rules of thumb to follow. The
following list is an adapted summary of a similar list in
my eBook "Instant Home Writing Kit".
1. Address It To A Specific Person
Even when sending an unsolicited resume to a company you
should take the time to find out the name of the appropriate
person and write the letter to that person. At least it will
reach their office. Resumes sent to "Dear Human Resources
Manager" are almost always a waste of time. Name someone
specifically and it will at least make it into an in-basket.
2. Keep It Short And Focused
Remember, your resume already says it all. Keep the letter
short and focused and don't repeat what is already in the
attached resume or c.v. Never exceed one page in a cover
3. Be Enthusiastic
Express your interest in the job and the new company with
enthusiasm. Show that you really want the job, and that you
would really like to work for that particular company.
4. Focus On The Needs Of The Employer
Throughout your cover letter make it clear that you are
interested in the needs of the employer. You are there to
help them. You are part of the solution. Try to make this
the subliminal message of your entire letter.
5. Show That You've Done Your Homework
Demonstrate a good knowledge of the company and industry
for which you are applying. A one-liner, or a phrase or
two in the appropriate place in your letter that shows you
are interested, and understand that the company's problems
will give you instant credibility (i.e. do some simple
6. Use The Appropriate "Buzzwords"
Every organization has its own ways of doing things and its
own lingo. Look through key documents such as annual
reports, corporate Web sites, etc. Try to spot key words,
terms, and phrases that are often repeated. Every company
has them. Use as many of these "hot buttons" as you can in
your cover letter - where appropriate, of course. For
example, if the "Message From the CEO" in the annual report
mentions the phrase "action plan for the future" three
times, make sure you work that term into your cover letter.
Don't overdo it, of course.
7. Summarize Your Skills and Abilities
If possible, without making the letter too long, summarize
your overall skills and abilities in bullet-point form.
This can make them stand out in a way that they wouldn't,
buried in the resume or cv.
8. Promise To Follow Up
In the final paragraph, clearly state that you will be
following up by telephone in a few days to see if you can
answer any questions. Make sure you do this. Industry
experts say that over 80% of people never do this crucial
follow-up and just wait for the phone to ring.
The challenge of course, is to try to address all of these
points in a three or four paragraph letter. It can be done!
To see a fully-formatted "real-life template" of a resume
cover letter, go to the following link:
? 2005 by Shaun Fawcett
Shaun Fawcett, is webmaster of the popular writing help site
WritingHelp-Central.com. He is also the author of several
best selling "writing toolkit" eBooks. All of his eBooks and
his internationally acclaimed f-r-e-e course, "Tips and Tricks
For Writing Success" are available at his writing tools site: