Thursday, 13 March 2014
Chapter Review: Cover Letters
Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray
Publication Date: 2012
Chapter 9: Cover Letters
This chapter gives advice about how to write a strong cover letter.
A cover letter is a bridge between the applicant and the job that she is applying for. The vacancy announcement should be the guide as you write the cover letter. Talk about how your work experience, coursework, research, publications, workshops, conferences, or training would bring value to their organization. Try not to parrot back the exact phrasing from the job posting, but use your experience to demonstrate how you have done what they are asking for. Even if you have not done everything on the list of desired qualifications, do your best to describe your authentic strengths and help the potential employers make the connections between your skills and their needs. Be sure to do some research to determine who to address the letter to and use information about the institution within the letter. Refrain from using “to whom it may concern” because it may appear cold and generic; also avoid a gimmicky or infomercial sounding cover letter. Other tips include writing the position number and how you discovered it in the introduction, and don’t repeat your contact information in the body of the letter. The letter should have a professional (concise and direct) tone and be conservative in format and presentation. In some cases, like re-location you can include personal information such as, “my spouse accepted a position in Minnesota” as a reason you are leaving a position in Arizona. The authors recommend applicants apply in enough time to write the cover letter, allow a couple of days for someone else to read it and review it yourself before the submission. A good gauge for the length of the cover letter is the position level that you are applying for, entry level jobs should be 1-1.5 pages, a library director position might be 3-5 pages.
I often get stuck on what to include on a cover letter, so this chapter helps me a great deal. Since most employers are swamped with applications, I try to keep the cover letter at one page in length. I feel like I could always do more background research on the institution to incorporate into the cover letter and I hardly ever have someone else go over my letter before submitting it. Perhaps, a nice circle of friends could make ourselves available to each other for the review of our application documents. The biggest reason that this is hard for me is the turnaround time; waiting on someone to respond with feedback could make me miss the application deadline. The advice from this chapter gives me an ideal to strive for, and if I keep striking out doing it my way, an incentive to find a way to do it their way.