You don’t need to bring a cover letter with you to an interview, but then you don’t need to bring your resume or wear a clean outfit –- that is, if you don’t need the job. A cover letter is one more tool that allows you to pitch yourself in the best light, with all the right credentials and qualities the employer needs. Use it, for heaven’s sake. After all, you’ll leave the interview eventually, but with a well-written cover letter, your words will linger long after you are gone.
When you’re using a cover letter as an introduction, it’s not necessary to repeat what you’re going to be saying in person. The point is to make a statement about your outstanding qualities and leave a resume that stands out from the rest. Since each cover letter should be original and geared toward a specific job, and addressed to a specific, named person, you can tailor a hand-delivered cover letter that serves another purpose. Introduce yourself at the interview and when you hand over your resume, let the cover letter serve as a title page for the resume, with bullets highlighting the points you want to bring out and a thank-you for the recruiter’s time. Make your name and contact info stand out on the cover when you bring it with you to the interview.
A cover letter is the one place that you can write in paragraph format to show off your writing abilities and your creativity. Jump at the chance to tell a little story or repeat your qualifications in a more illustrative manner with strong and compelling verbs. Make the cover letter attractive so it serves as a showcase for the resume and a tease so the recruiter just has to read it because it looks so good. Personalize the cover letter as if you’re writing a note to a good friend and it may just be the one thing that puts you ahead of the competition.
Sure, a cover letter is appropriate for cheering about your own accomplishments in a more enthusiastic manner than just a resume. It’s also a great place to expand a little on your enthusiasm for the company where you’re interviewing or the manager for whom you’ll work. Do your homework before writing the cover letter and let it stand as your documentation of the virtues of the company and its accomplishments. Praise generously and use up a paragraph to expound on the thrill of even thinking about the possibility of joining such a winning team.
Your letter might even get passed around the office after you leave. Make it such a masterpiece that the recruiter wants to share it with her colleagues or pass it to the hiring manager. If you write a glowing review of the company and expound on why you think it would be such a great place to work, your letter might even make it to the owner or CEO. If so, you might as well get your second interview outfit ready or prepare to start your new job very soon.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."