Why You Should Never Send Just a Resume: Three Essential Documents That Give Your Resume Extra Punch

Most job seekers know the importance of a well-written resume. But don't stop there. Add a cover letter, follow-up letter, and thank you letter to your application package and help your resume get the attention it deserves.

Cover Letter

One of the most common--and most damaging--mistakes job seekers make is neglecting their cover letter. Getting a hiring manager's attention is first and foremost a marketing endeavor. Like a trailer for a movie, a cover letter encapsulates the main ideas and most compelling highlights of your career potential. This creates interest and prompts the hiring manger to take the time to read the full story in your resume.

A well written, focused cover letter tells a hiring manager that you are committed to getting this job (as opposed to a job) and that you possess a drive for excellence that will carry over once you're hired. A great cover letter sets you apart from casual job seekers and can make all the difference between languishing at the bottom of a pile of resumes and winning the interview. On the other hand, a sloppy or generic cover letter tells a hiring manager that you're not so special--and that you don't think this job opening is either.

What can a cover letter do that a resume can't?

  • A cover letter can generate interest to convince a hiring manager to give the more extensive information in the resume full attention.
  • A cover letter can outline exactly how your qualifications match up with what the hiring manager is seeking.
  • A cover letter can address a specific company and a specific job posting, demonstrating that you really care about this job.
  • A cover letter can encapsulate your most compelling qualifications and dramatic achievements.
  • A cover letter can show your personality--your compulsion to crunch numbers, your drive to network new clientele, your inborn flair for customer relations.
  • A cover letter can put a positive spin on any negative or unusual career history.

Follow-up Letter

Keep in mind these two facts: First, hiring managers are looking for candidates with drive and follow-through. Second, they are often slogging through a mire of dozens or hundreds of resumes. Show your spunk--and keep your name at the top of the hiring manager's pile--by sending a follow-up letter a few days after your resume and cover letter. This letter should briefly highlight the key match-up between your professional abilities and the hiring manager's needs.

Thank You Letter

Congratulations! You got the interview. . . .Unfortunately, you weren't the only one. Help seal the deal with some good old-fashioned manners. Send a brief thank you letter the day after your interview. This often-overlooked component of job-seeking etiquette shows you're a serious candidate and can tip the scales in your favor. Even better, it lets you remind the interviewer of your positive points, build on rapport established in the interview, or correct any misperceptions you feel you left at the interview.