Absolutely, it is useful. In this tough job market any additional job search tool can go a long way toward helping you find a job. A cover letter serves two general purposes. It can be used to elaborate on areas in your resume as well as and perhaps most importantly to strengthen a weakness in your resume (i.e. education, work experience, experience or skills gap). With that said I have found that most professionals write a long exposé about their work experience without a clear purpose that relates directly to the job they are applying. So without further ado here are my tips on how to make a cover letter useful.
1. First and foremost, make a reference to your cover letter for an important area that needs further explanation. I have not seen one resume that has done this but it can very helpful and pull the reader to your cover letter. That being said, it should be used diligently and only for the two reasons mentioned above.
2. Second make sure you have highlighted your three most important careers accomplishments using bullets. The accomplishments should relate directly to the job you are applying and should showcase an experience or accomplishment that is exceptional.
3. Third a cover letter should cleverly fill in holes in your resume. It is best to be honest and direct and show how the gap in experience or otherwise can be filled because of some other experience or education. With that said, if you cannot convincingly close a gap on your resume then perhaps it is an indicator that the opportunity you are applying may not be a fit. Many people apply to jobs that do not fit their current profile. This is a big mistake because it costs you precious time that could be used to look for other positions that you have a real chance of getting. I know it can be tough on your ego but a focused job search is the best strategy.
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Now Go Get Em'
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