We can all get a lot of help writing resumes. There are even lots and lots of very good books and articles on this topic.
Still, the first thing most recipients read or at least glance at is your cover letter. As bad as most of the resumes I see are, the cover letters are often worse.
We are all kind of stuck with the fact that in this electronic world, the email message you send with your resume IS your cover letter. Please don’t attach two files. No one has time to open and print two files. But, don’t include your cover letter as the first page of your resume because it will typically mess up all the pages that follow and/or make it difficult to separate the two if someone needs to just forward your resume.
Like any good piece of correspondence, your email needs to appear well formatted and crisp. Set up another address and send it to yourself until you are satisfied it looks good. Start at the top. Have you set up your name and address? Have you created a nice looking outgoing signature with all of your contact points (in order of importance)? If you are like many of our members, you may have allowed all this new technology to baffle you. Don’t! As I have been heard to say, some of this stuff is so easy that anyone can do it, so if I try hard, I can too! Using a “family address” or sharing an address with your spouse is a bad idea. Think like you are at work (because you are) and make it look perfect.
And now for the meat and potatoes: First, the subject. What is the “topic?” Why are you writing to me? Consider that your recipient may actually be working on more than one thing. The topic is quickly followed by an opening paragraph. This is not a sales document as much as it is an explanation of why you are writing.
Next, you are allowed up to 3 or 4 paragraphs tying your background to the specifications in the posting. If your background is appropriate, but it isn’t obvious, make it clear why it is. If making iPhones is just like making buggy whips, make the analogy.
Keep your total opus to ¾ of a page. And, keep your paragraphs and sentences short. The attention span in the world is very short. Anything over this length doesn’t get examined.
Think of your cover note as just providing some relevant highlights of your background, not the whole story.
If you explain your rationale for contacting your reader, they just might give your resume a proper read. Bore them with a lot of irrelevant details, and they just might hit the delete key.
As they say, KISS – keep it simple stupid. Less is more.