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A Word About Your Web Site . . . First, do you have one? If not, that’s fine and as your experience and credentials mount, you will revisit this decision. Resist the urge to just throw something up; a bad Web site can work against you so taking the time to design it right is important. If you already do have a Web site, is it what you’d term “strictly professional”? This means no cute pictures of you in first grade, no video clip of you snowboarding with friends, no shots of your irresistible wolfhound or calico cat or pet goldfish. If you developed a Web site to fulfill a course assignment or to showcase samples of your professional expertise, then by all means do include your Web site address or URL on your resumé once you have reviewed, revised, and edited it. A Web site can be one more important tool in marketing yourself to potential employers. APPLICATION LETTERS Before you begin designing the second all-important marketing tool, your application letter (also known as a cover letter), it’s wise to backtrack and review good letter writing basics as discussed on pages 23–26. Remember we told you that the resumé is an essential marketing tool whose main purpose is to make your phone ring with an interview offer? That’s also exactly true about the cover letter, except for one important difference. A cover letter is much more of a personal statement about you. As such, it should be written in a tone that is both businesslike and yet reflective of your personality. The cover letter is an opportunity for you to answer this question for an employer: Here’s why and how I’m special. Because a cover letter is a customized selling of your strengths for one particular job, you won’t be sending the same cover letter to every employer. Yes, you may use a template or boilerplate approach to save yourself from pulling your hair out by the roots, but to be truly successful in your mission of making your phone ring off the hook with interview offers, you’ll need to design a cover letter that is tweaked for each potential employer. We’re going on the assumption that you’ll be applying for an actual job listing or referral so our advice will be geared to that scenario (rather than an Are-you-hiring? situation). You’ll almost always send a cover letter with your resumé, either as a hard or an electronic copy, using e-mail or fax. Why? Because a cover letter is the way the business world operates and, as we’ve already reminded you numerous times, you need to prove you know how to be businesslike. We say almost always send a cover letter because in a few specific incidents, employers will specify no cover letter. If so, don’t. Research Time Again . . . Before you begin to design your cover letter, take one giant step backwards to Research Mode. Conducting some preliminary research will be helpful as you go about your task of crafting a customized letter. If you take the time to find out about the company to which you’re applying and use that knowledge sparingly but appropriately in your cover letter, you’ll stand out from the other hundred applicants as someone who’s done your homework. How to achieve this? Here are some suggestions: • Visit the Web site • Conduct an online search for recent news • Obtain a copy of the annual report if the firm is publicly owned • Ask professionals and/or professors in the field • Look up the company in specialized directories or trade association materials (See page 39 for a list of Web sites.) What you’re looking for is the scope of services provided, mission and goals, clients, awards and honors, new projects, new markets. Take notes or make photocopies or printouts as you unearth pertinent information. If the job posting does not identify the specific person to apply to, cruise the company’s Web site or call the office directly. The call could go something like this: