Thought that you were done writing when you finished your resume? Unfortunately, you have to think again about that one.

Back in the day, a recommendation from someone was enough to get an interview. Maybe you answered a job placement ad and were asked to “come on in.”

Then, something called a word processor became our nemesis, and we were now asked to make a resume of our job and educational history.

Once resumes began to flood something called ‘inboxes’ of newly registered email accounts, employers began to ask an applicant for something to differentiate the plethora of resumes.

As a result, the cover letter was born. Most of the time, job seekers feel that a cover letter is just a formality – so they quickly throw something together and send it off.

However, the truth is that your cover letter is an important part of your calling card. It should appear as such to your audience as well. In other words, your resume and cover letter should appear to be a cohesive packaged effort.

In the end, you want the hiring manager to be intrigued by the information you shared in your resume, and to want to learn more about you. So, how do you make that a reality?

Here are some tips that might just make a meaningful difference when introducing yourself to a potential employer.

Answer What They’re Already Asking

While reading your resume, a hiring manager is asking herself questions that arise in her mind. Should the resume fail to answer them, your cover letter needs to come to your rescue. This is why the two documents must work together to tell your story.

A cover letter can be more of a narrative of your career, education and personal life. It colors in between the black and white lines of a resume format. Don’t go overboard sharing your life story, though.

Stay focused on your relevant experiences, but also offer up compelling explanations for anything that might be confusing in your resume or application. Don’t leave the employer guessing when you have a perfectly good vehicle to clarify and expand on your story.

Customize Your Cover Letter

Much like our advice on writing a winning resume, it is important to tailor a cover letter to fit the position that you’re seeking. This is your chance to point out relevant experience, a passion for the company you’re applying to or a meaningful life experience that is applicable in this case.

That’s the main difference between a resume and a cover letter. They may both describe your relevant experience, but your resume outlines what you can do in general, while your cover letter explains what you will do for the company you’re applying to.

Present a Visually Cohesive Package

It is worth remembering that hiring managers and recruiters see thousands of resumes and cover letters annually. Most are templatized, some home grown and others are professionally crafted.

As first impressions are critical in most walks of life, such is the case when sifting through mountains of resumes and cover letters. To differentiate yourself from the herd, consider adding some design elements to your package – make it fun and visually attractive to look at.

Present them both as being a cohesive package that looks like it belongs together. This means using the same font all the way through. Vary the font size for formatting; consider some visual elements such as borders or backgrounds.

One thing to always keep in mind is, never use emojis! Even when applying to a social media company run by a 23-year-old, you should adhere to professional etiquette.

Share a Back Story to Your Resume

Resumes can be challenging, especially because it is frustrating to tell a cohesive story about a particular work or life experience using bullet points. This is where cover letters provide their value.

While you definitely don’t want to repeat your resume bullets verbatim, you can cover some of the same accomplishments with context. Use the cover letter to explain further and answer questions that you anticipate a recruiter or hiring manager to be thinking while reading your resume.

Begin to paint the story as to why you’re right for the position, how you’ll fit into the company culture and – this is important! – why they’ll like you. Remember, chemistry counts!

Writing a compelling cover letter requires as much effort as does drafting a resume. Successfully doing so will result in a stronger, more impactful job application and a way to rise above the crowd.

How would you describe your work experience and skills in 25 words or less? Please share your cover letter writing experience with us!

Jeff HenningJeff Henning is a business leader and educator in Southern California. He is the father of 10 daughters. His expertise is in creating meaningful change within a business to drive results focused upon people, profits and planet. Jeff is the founder of Square Peg, an organization that recognizes the tremendous challenge Baby Boomers face while attempting to reinvent themselves in the new career landscape.

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