Cover Yourself with A Cover Letter

Do you know the “7- second rule” in job search? It means that it only takes 7- seconds for an employer to form an opinion about you when meeting you in person. This 7- second rule also applies to when you email a potential employer, or when someone reads your LinkedIn profile, or resume. It also applies to your cover letter. The cover letter is a 7- second initial impressions and for some employers can be more important than a resume. Job seekers often ask: if the job posting states “please email your resume” does this mean you include a cover letter too? The answer is yes.


Always cover your resume with a cover letter. It is a business etiquette tradition and provides you with an opportunity to impress the reader whether you are emailing your application or adding it to an online tracking system. A cover letter is a document that introduces your resume and gives you the chance to convince the potential employer that you should be interviewed.


You can use a T-Bar Style cover letter or a traditional 3 paragraph cover letter. The traditional 3 paragraph cover letter includes the following basics:


1)    Length: a cover letter should never be more than one page.


2) Font: use size 12 font and the same font style throughout your letter.


3) Salutation: if you do not have the name of the person you are sending your letter to, never write “Dear Sir or Madam”. Instead, use a generic term such as “Dear Human Resources” or “Dear Hiring Committee”.


4) Key words: incorporate as many key words and expressions from the job posting as

possible. Never cut and paste from the job posting and instead craft the key words in a

way that shows the reader who you are, so they are encouraged to read your resume


5) First paragraph: this is your introduction and should state where and when

you found the job posting.


6) Second paragraph: this should state why you are the best candidate for the job and how you

will help the employer achieve their goals.


7) Third paragraph: this is the conclusion and should state how the reader can contact you. In addition to these basics here are two more tips to make your cover letter as impressive as possible. They are:


8) The word “I”: try to eliminate the word “I” as much as possible and never start a

paragraph with the word “I”. For example, instead of stating “I have enclosed a copy

of my resume for you to review after I read on your website that you are seeking

candidates”, revise this to: “Recently while reviewing your website, the above referenced job posting caught my interest”. It is the same line yet does not include the word “I”.


9) Be specific: pay careful attention to the job posting and instead of just claiming

that you can do something, describe how or why you have mastered it. For example,

if the job posting states “seeking proactive office manager able to juggle multiple tasks

in a fast-paced setting”, you might want to put the following into your cover letter:

“In my last office manager role, I upgraded the billing system gaining faster reimbursements and payments, while at the same time I prepared department payroll, oversaw a staff of 12 full-time employees and 3 casual workers, and prepared weekly statistical reports for senior management. This type of environment excites me because I am not tied to a specific routine and can utilize many skills”. In other words, do not just claim you have been successful. Describe your specific talents and achievements that best relate to the job you are applying to.


In summary, never underestimate the importance of a good cover letter as it might be

able to get your through the interview door. If you want to learn more about how to

cover yourself with a cover letter, and if you want to find out what a T-Bar Style cover letter is, consider contacting the Centre for Education & Training ( to see if you qualify to have a Career Specialist assist you. This article was submitted by Lisa Trudel, Career Specialist with the Centre for Education & Training. She works at their Parliament Employment Services location in downtown Toronto and can be contacted at:


Second Career

Out of the nursery and into college training

by Anne McDonough



Christina Lukie has just begun training for a career in social services at George Brown College. Unlike some of her fellow students, she knows what she is getting into. And so she is likely to stay the course until graduation.

     Because Christina is a Second Career client, she has a clear idea what her work will be like; and she knows her salary will be modest when she graduates.

     Nevertheless, she is certain that this is the career for her and she knows that there are ways to advance. For instance, in two years when she gets her diploma from George Brown, she could take another two years at Ryerson University and get her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

      The Second Career program, introduced in 2009 by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, is a signature program of the Ontario government. Its goal is to re-tool 20,000 workers for the jobs of the future.

This is a generous grant -- not a loan

     The money available to those accepted into the program—up to $28,000 over two years—is for books, living expenses, help caring for dependents, travel, transportation, disability supports and other living and training costs. This is a generous grant—not a loan—for two years, to help people help themselves.

      Until recently, Christina worked as a nanny. She enjoyed working with children, but realized there was no opportunity for career growth and started looking for other options.

      Christina began the process of becoming a Second Career client in October of 2010. Her employment counsellor at St. Stephen’s Community House, Ana Paredes, supported Christina during the entire process.    

      In December of 2010, Christina learned that she was eligible—not accepted, just eligible—for Second Career. That is when the work began.

      With Ana’s help, she considered what work she would like to do. As required by Second Career, she researched the careers of interest to her and decided upon social services -- hoping one day to work with children or youth, thus building upon her previous skills and experience as a nanny.

      For eight months she researched work in social services. She met monthly with Ana -- to whom Christina says she will be eternally grateful for her direction and encouragement. Christina interviewed people in the field, did labour market research such as assessing the demand for social service workers. She found out what the prerequisites were and what subjects she would study.

Poor starting pay,

but opportunity for advancement

     Christina was certainly disappointed when she discovered the pay scale. The starting salary was less than she earned as a nanny, but she decided she would like to work in the field anyway. Besides, there was a career path and opportunity for advancement.

      Even after all that research, Christina still did not know for sure if she would be accepted as a Second Career client. She waited it out. In July she was accepted and in September she began her training.

      Why such a demanding process to become a Second Career client? The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is investing so much money and the re-tooling of workers is so important, that it wants to be sure that the clients want to and are able to make optimal use of the program.

      Christina proved to herself, her counsellor Ana, and to Second Career itself, that she is likely to complete the program and have a successful career in social services.


Toronto, Canada