"Don't judge a book by its cover." That old saying has been around for a long time, warning people to not make too hasty of a judgment based on how something looks at first glance. However, the fact remains that many people still judge books, and a myriad of other things, on first impressions. This includes hiring managers sifting through piles of job applications. Though for hiring managers, the phrase should sound more like this: "Do judge an application by its cover letter."
Cover letters are much more important than many job applicants think. Too often, these letters are written hastily just before sending off a job application. Those who do this are also too often left wondering why they never seem to receive a call back from the employer for an interview opportunity. The answer lies in the process that many hiring managers employ to help slim down the stack of job applications to just a few viable candidates. Hiring managers look through hundreds of applications, and many of these applications are monotonous and are nearly always indistinguishable from one another. To narrow down the playing field, so to speak, many hiring managers will first look over the cover letters that job applicants included to determine who gets to move onto the interview round. Dissatisfactory cover letters typically result in the entire job application being trashed, no matter how qualified the applicant may have been for the position. After all, a poorly written cover letter indicates that the applicant has poor communication skills, which is a detriment to any job environment.
To save your application from an early demise, be sure to craft a cover letter that will impress and help you to stand out from the crowd. This does not mean that you should print your cover letter on flowery stationary or green ink. Hiring managers rarely fall for novelty. Instead, rely on your writing skills to sell yourself. First of all, be sure that you have spelled the hiring manager's name correctly. Nothing is more revealing of an incompetent individual than spelling the name of the hiring manager wrong, and hiring managers know this. If their name is misspelled on your cover letter, your application is toast.
Use the cover letter to explain why you would be a beneficial addition to the organization. Tooting your own horn is permissible, but it is better if you brag about your achievements and make them relevant to the company as well. It may be great that you are an expert air hockey player, but do not boast about this unless you can explain how that skill will benefit the company. After all, the point of your cover letter is to persuade the hiring manager to flip the page and look over your resume.