Guest Author - Dianne Walker
What should you include in a cover letter? Should it include personal information? Should you talk about the job you’re applying for? Exactly what should you, or should you not, include in order to not have your cover letter and attached resume tossed into the circular file? It can be tricky, but the tip is – professionalism wins out every time. Writing a cover letter for an out-of-state position, however, requires a tad more information, but still has parameters. As an out-of-state applicant, you have to step up your game so employers will see you as a viable candidate when there is a lot of local talent to choose from.
Logistics – One of the most important pieces of information you can provide is exactly when you will be in town. Most employers will not pay for out-of-state applicants to come for an interview. Nor will they wait for you to show up a month or two down the road. Provide the employer with the dates you will be in the area and available to interview. If your travel plans are contingent upon getting an interview, you need to say so. The best suggestion is to be available to interview within 24 to 48 hours after you were notified they want to interview you. Remember, employers don’t want to waste valuable recruiting time on a “non-contender” or someone who may or may not be in the area to interview. You can also ask if Skype or other means of video interviewing are available. The problem is that if the company is not up on technology, they may think you're just not interested enough to come for an in-person interview.
Tailor it! One of the worst mistakes is to use a generic cover letter that could be used for any job from a store clerk to an executive. Tailoring your cover letter is basic and should be followed whether or not the job search is local or long distance, but long distance applicants need to be even more careful.
When are you available to start? “If offered the position, I would be available to start…” Employers with positions to fill, need to fill them as quickly as possible. If you need to make relocation arrangements, let the employer know how soon you can start after being offered the job. Be truthful. Don’t say you can start within three weeks of a job offer, if you know for a fact it will take you at least a month. Remember, job offers can be rescinded.
Focus on the job, not your personal situation. The employer just wants to know what you will do for the company. They don’t need personal information such as moving for a divorce, or to take care of a sick parent. If your reasons for needing to move to the area are personal, that’s more of an incentive to make sure you get the job by playing up your skills, not your personal life.
Cover letters require a lot of thought to show that you are the best candidate for the position, even more so than any candidate they can find locally. Be sure that your cover letter reflects that you ARE the best candidate for the position.