1) When you need to include information that should NOT go into the resume
A resume is a formal business document with strict rules that must be followed. These rules include not writing in first person or including personal information like your desire to relocate.
However, there are times when you need to communicate this type of information in order to make the case for your fit for the position:
Example: Your cover letter can be used to communicate your intention to make a transition in your career or move to another city/state. Recruiters receive thousands of unqualified resumes for every position. They will look at your resume and cover letter and immediately trash them if they don’t see a fit — assuming that you are another one of those annoying applicants who applies for every job posted. This is always a challenge for career changers and individuals looking to relocate and a good cover letter can make a big difference.
Example: Your cover letter can also explain away other aspects of your particular career situation that might not be appropriate to include on your resume. For example, if you took some time away from the work force, but have kept your skills and knowledge up-to-date.
Additionally, in some job ads, the company will ask for specific information to be included in your cover letter. This technique is used to make screening easier — if someone can’t follow simple application directions, why waste time on an interview? Pay careful attention to the information they request and be sure to address it.
One problematic area is if they ask for salary requirements to be included in your cover letter. Companies make this request to help them rule out individuals with higher salary requirements than they have budgeted for the position, but it can also lock you into a lower pay range than they might offer you otherwise.
However, ignoring the request could disqualify you as well. Ergo, I suggest you research the average salary for the position you are applying to in the state of the opening and include a range slightly above and below that number.
There are several sites that have compiled census and other data information to give you a decent estimate of salaries by position in specific cities and states (Payscale is a great place to start). So if the average salary of your job is $60K for the location where you live (or want to live), list your salary requirements as $55K to $65K. Again, no salary information should be included in a resume. I typically don’t even include information about bonuses or commissions for sales representatives (just awards like President’s Club or Top 5%).
2) When you want to reference a network connection
There is no right way to include in your resume, “Our mutual associate John Smith referred me to this role and says he thinks I will make a great fit for the job opening.” That is a reference line reserved solely for the opening paragraph of a cover letter. There are multiple ways you can mention a network connection or mutual friend in a cover letter, but such a statement has no place in a resume whatsoever.
Note: In professional resume writing, it has become passé to include a list of references on your resume or even the line “references available upon request.” Such information takes up valuable real estate on your resume (which should be 1-2 pages max) and it is best to focus on your achievements and qualifications instead. Besides, the hiring managers know you will give them references when they request them.
Rather than waste space on your resume, prepare a reference sheet with the same header as your resume and give it to the interviewer at the end of your meeting.
This sheet should include the first and last name of your references, their titles and company names, city and state, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses if possible.
You can even be proactive and have letters of recommendation ready to hand the hiring manager at the end of your meeting, but don’t send them prior to that initial interview.
3) When you want to emphasize why you’re interested in the company
One way to distinguish yourself as a job candidate is to research the company you are interviewing with and talk about things you like or ask questions about the work they have coming up. This demonstrates your interest in their particular organization as opposed to them being just another job ad you responded to in your desperate attempt to find employment.
You can use your cover letter to show that you’ve done your homework and see a strong fit with the organization. Within the second or closing paragraphs of your cover letter, you can mention being interested in the specific work the company does, recent grants they have been awarded, a product they recently released, etc.
Again, this is not appropriate for inclusion on your resume, but adding it to your cover letter can help you stand out from the stack of applications the hiring manager is sorting through on the day your resume passes by him/her.
Credit: Big Interview