Some people suggest that resume cover letters aren’t relevant in this era of Internet-posted resumes and social media networking. Others point out that big investment banks barely have 30 seconds to scan your resume, let alone your cover letter.
Nevertheless, a well-crafted cover letter gives you one more chance to demonstrate your professionalism, add some personality and highlight the one or two unique things about your background. But there are a few rules you need to follow.
First, keep it brief. One page only, and 3-4 paragraphs at the most. Aside from the obvious, addressing it to the correct person and spelling their name, title and company name correctly, it should follow this pattern.
Your first paragraph should introduce yourself and your reason for writing, or how you learned about a particular opportunity. If you are following up on a chance encounter with a person or being referred by someone else, by all means mention their name. Then mention, in one sentence, what attracts you to this position or company. Be sure to keep your first paragraph short; no more than 2-3 sentences.
Your second paragraph is usually the longest. This is where you mention what you are currently doing, and why you are a good candidate for the job. Focus on 2-3 key skills that make you well qualified for the position to which you’re applying. Mention relevant experience, unique skills, and anything else that sets you apart. Use active verbs and specific language. Although this paragraph should only be 4-5 sentences, some people break this part into two separate paragraphs, to avoid having too large a block of text on the page.
Next time, we’ll look at what should be in the last paragraph of your investment banking job cover letter, and some other tips that can make it more compelling.