Always Send a Cover Letter
Whenever you send out your resume, a cover letter should always accompany it. This is true when you are applying for a job in response to a posted job opening or when you are sending an unsolicited resume to a prospective employer. It is true when you are sending your resume to a member of your network or a potential contact. It is also true whether you are sending your resume by snail mail or e-mail. Even when you apply online to a job listing posted on a job-bank site, you will usually have the option of submitting a cover letter along with your resume.
A cover letter lets you introduce yourself to the person to whom you are sending your resume. First, it is your chance to let the recipient know why they are receiving it. That may sound simplistic, but remember that your resume is most likely not the only one landing in the recipient's inbox. An employer may be getting resumes in response to many job openings. You can help him by specifying which job you are applying for.
Job-search sites like CareerBuilder, Monster, and Yahoo! HotJobs, which will be discussed in detail in Chapter 10, all let users set up cover letters. You must become a member of each site to do this, but don't worry — membership is free. Your cover letter will be stored in a database with your resume and you can access it when applying for jobs listed on each of those Web sites.
Your cover letter gives you the opportunity to highlight your skills and experience that are most relevant to the job opening for which you are applying. Use your cover letter to showcase two or three attributes that the employer will find most desirable. Then don't forget to ask for an interview before closing your letter. If you aren't sending your resume because you are applying for a job, but are instead sending it to a member of your network or a potential contact, then make sure to let the recipient know what you want to happen next. Do you want to set up a meeting with her? If so, specify that. If you plan to follow up with a phone call, say that in your letter as well.