Cover Letter Tips
by Bob Thompson
Your cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself. It presents your intentions, qualifications and availability to a prospective employer in a succinct and appealing format. As your first chance to make a great impression, a personalized letter indicates you are serious about your job search. Your resume can give the nitty-gritty of dates, places of employment and education, but your cover letter must entice the reader to consider you amidst hundreds, or even thousands, of candidates for any one job opening.
- Personalize It to the District.
Anyone can reproduce a “canned” cover letter and hope for the best. Instead, take a few minutes to personalize your letter to show a district you are serious about working there. State the reason for your interest in the district. Show that you have done your homework by mentioning district specifics such as test scores, building projects, programs, etc. Address the cover letter to a specific individual whenever possible.
- State Your Intentions and Qualifications Right up Front.
Don’t expect a board or recruiter to wade through a mishmash of information on your cover letter before understanding why you are sending your resume. What job are you applying for?
- Highlight Your Strengths.
You may be a great person and never call in sick, but prospective employers really want to know why they should consider you for this position. Brag a little (but not too much). Give a few facts, list relevant skills, list one or two accomplishments on recent jobs that are consistent with their needs. But be brief and refer them to your resume for additional detail.
- Increased overall test scores by 20 percentage points.
- Implemented new employee recognition program that reduced staff turnover by 15 percent.
- What Makes You Different?
Emphasize your skills, talents and experiences to show how you would be a valuable addition to the team. If you have relevant volunteer or professional experience, mention it briefly in your cover letter. For example, if you serve as volunteer treasurer for a nonprofit community health organization, include that information. Or, if you speak other languages, add that to your letter.
- No Negative Information.
Never include personality conflicts with previous employers, pending litigation against you, or sarcastic remarks in your cover letter. If you are bad-mouthing your present place of employment, interviewers may fear a repeat performance if they hire you.
- When Should You Include Salary and/or Relocation Information?
You should not include what you expect in salary or benefits unless that information is specifically requested. If it is requested, include in the cover letter and not the resume, and make it a “soft” figure, e.g. “… in the neighborhood of $80,000 but salary is not my primary interest in this position.” If it is not requested, don’t mention money or benefits until asked. You should mention when you are available to move and, if that is a negotiable date, say so.
- Take Action Steps.
Take a proactive approach in your cover letter. State the fact that you are available for a personal interview; give your home, work, email and/or cell phone numbers where you can be reached and note that you will follow up by phone to provide any additional information required.
- Be Direct!
A professionally written cover letter and resume can open the door to your next position or it can slam the door. A clean, error-free document, combined with strong phrasing and solid facts, will encourage the reader to review the attached resume and call you in for an interview.