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Cover Letters: How Important Are They?

Cover letters are a critical part of the application process, according to Robert Half International's survey. Account executives surveyed rated the cover letter either as important or more critical than the résumé itself.

So, what are the ingredients to the perfect cover letter?

A Personal Greeting
  • Do some research to obtain the name of your contact.
  • Letters addressed "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam" do not have the impact as those addressed with an actual name and title (correctly spelled).
A Simple Statement of Purpose
  • Avoid gimmicky openings
    • Your first paragraph should clearly explain your purpose for writing and reasons you deserve the company's time and attention.
  • A Summary of Strong Points
    • Highlight your expertise in vital accounting skills that link specifically to the position for which you are applying
    • The cover letter is your chance to expound on your skills and expertise
  • Don't Simply Rework Your Resume
    • Use your cover letter as a way to get key points across that would not fit into a résumé format.
    • Focus on two or three accomplishments or qualities that distinguish you from the competition.
    • Try to connect these points to the main responsibilities of the job, and fortify them with positive examples of real life experiences.
  • Be Relevant
    • Include statements that show you have an understanding of the company/industry and are up to speed on the relevant issues influencing them.
  • Correct Spelling and Punctuation
    • Nothing is worse to prospective employers than a sloppily done, grammatically incorrect cover letter with misspelled words.
    • Use spell check!
    • Have a friend or family member review it to check that the content makes sense.
  • Personal Yet Professional Looking Stationery
    • Cover letters look just as nice when printed on resumé paper
      • Preferably light gray, cream or white
      • Sign your letter in ink.

    Source: "How to Get Ahead in Accounting and Finance," Robert Half International Inc.