For the past few days, the New York Times online indicates their article on cover letters for job applicants is the most emailed. Obvious reason: It has great advice.
These among the tips in the article:
1. Yes, you need a cover letter;
2. Specifically tailor your cover letter to the company, the way you can't with your resume;
3. Use a decision-maker's name; or if a blind ad, "Dear Sir/Madam" (i.e., no informal "Hey there");
4. Keep it short - 3 to 4 paragraphs;
5. Explain why you are writing, what you have to offer the company, qualities you have that may not come through in the resume (but applicable to the position), and friendly end;
6. If electronic ad, you can place the cover letter before the resume if sending as one document - or send as an attachment;
7. Send a hard copy with a handwritten note that submitted by email;
8. Common mistakes - typos, bad sentences, misspellings (have people proof it!); discussing how the job will help you - not how you will help the company; including any reason about why you shouldn't be hired in the cover letter (e.g., "I know I lack ... " or "I can't ... ") Don't help someone decide to not interview you.
If I ask for a a cover letter in a job advertisement, and then a resume arrives without it, I wouldn't even considering interviewing that applicant. With a recent position, half didn't send one. If someone can't follow a basic instruction at the outset, it's not a good sign for the future performance.
Job applicants should take advantage of communications opportunities in cover letters.