More Tips For That First Glance - The Cover Letter


Much of our communication is 140-character sound bites or quick emails. But experts saycommunication skills still matter, and your cover letter is an important opportunity to let a potential boss know you have the ability to think clearly, write well, and tackle the job.

It’s also a chance to set yourself apart from the competition, many of whom either won’t bother with a letter or will send one with grammar and spelling errors. A strong cover letter not only makes you stand out but can be just as important as a resume in assuring a future employer you have the skills and personality to handle the work.

In school there were the Three Rs: reading, riting, and ‘rithmetic. In the world of great cover letters, there are five:

1. Read the manual. The ministry is requiring certain file formats, subject lines, document types or attachments for a reason—either they really matter to the person making a decision, or they want to weed out the people who can’t follow basic directions. Don’t let your letter and resume be rejected for silly mistakes.
2. Research. The church or organization probably has a website packed with information about its mission, history, leaders and current programs. While you’re avoiding interview mistakes by researching the company, take five more minutes to find the name of the person your letter should go to and send it directly to him or her (with the name spelled correctly, of course).
3. Referrals. If you have one, mention it. The decision-maker inundated with applications will remember one recommended by a friend or colleague. However, make sure the reference is solid—indiscriminate name-dropping will catch up with you.
4. Reveal, don’t rehearse. You don’t have to repeat everything in your ministry resume; instead, use the cover letter to “unpack” more details on the aspects you want to focus on. You can’t force the interviewer to ask about your life-changing internship or Kickstarter project, but it’s more likely to come up in discussion—discussion in which you can wow them with your skills and experience—if you draw attention to it in your letter.
5. Reread. Read the letter several times—don’t rely on spell-check—and ask a friend or family member to critique it, as well. You’ll catch awkward phrasing and redundant information if you read the letter out loud, and you’ll make it more difficult for your brain to skip over a typo.