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COVER LETTER COUNSELING

By MARVIN WALBERG - Scripps Howard News Service

In his new book, Gallery of Best Cover Letters (Jist Publishing), author David F. Noble advises job seekers to disregard some common falsehoods about cover letters and offers advice for perfecting them. Here are five myths about cover letters that job seekers should ignore:

Myth 1: Resumes and cover letters are two separate documents that have little relation to each other.

Your resume and cover letter should work together in presenting you effectively to a prospective employer. The cover letter should draw attention to the most important information in the resume.

Myth 2: The main purpose of the cover letter is to establish a friendly rapport with the reader.

The main purpose of a cover letter is to express that you want to do the work required. But it doesn't hurt to display enthusiasm in your resume and refer to your abilities in your cover letter. The cover letter should demonstrate qualities and worker traits you want the prospective employer to see, such as good communication skills, motivation, clear thinking, good sense, thoughtfulness, interest in others, neatness and so on.

Myth 3: You can use the same cover letter for each reader of your resume.

Modify your cover letter for each reader so that it sounds fresh rather than canned.

Myth 4: In a cover letter, you should mention any negative things about your life experience, work experience, health or education to prepare the reader in advance of an interview.

This is not the purpose of the cover letter. You might bring up these topics in the first or second interview, but only after the interviewer has shown interest in you or offered you a job. Even then, if you feel that you must mention something negative about your past, present it in a positive way, perhaps by saying how that experience has strengthened your resolve to work hard at any new job.

Myth 5: A resume is more important than its cover letter.

In a way, the cover letter can be more important. The cover letter is usually the first document a prospective employer sees. The first impression is often the most important one.

Marvin Walberg is a job-search coach based in Birmingham, Ala.

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