Q: What are some tips for writing cover letters?

A:Cover letters are not always needed in the application process. In fact, nearly all resumes submitted to Microsoft today come through our career web site at www.microsoft.com/careers where a resume can be built or copied into the online forms. Given this, a cover letter is not used as often as in the past when most resumes came via print mail with an associated cover letter. However, if you do have contacts within the company, then an accompanying e-mail to your contact(s) is often a good tactic to supplement your resume and can be considered a personal introduction, much like the role a cover letter has played traditionally.

Q: What are some common cover letter myths?

A:That they are 100% always needed and they need to summarize your experiences. The resume already does a great job of summarizing your work and school experiences. There's no need to duplicate that info in a cover letter. If you send a cover letter, let it play a unique role by introducing yourself, giving some insight into your interests, your employment situation and the next steps you plan on taking in your career path.

Q: What are some things to avoid when it comes to writing a cover letter?

A:Making it too long. Duplicating info already on the resume. Make it short, to the point and offer info that is unique from what's already available on the resume.

Q: Are cover letters even necessary any longer?

A:This is case by case and probably varies by company. From Microsoft's perspective, they are much less common due to the fact that our career Web site handles the vast majority of job applications and a cover letter is not required for submission. This is likely becoming a more common practice across our industry and others.

Warren Ashton is the Group Marketing Manager/Staffing Marketing at Microsoft Corp. He is responsible for Microsoft’s recruitment communications programs. • Visit Microsoft Corp. Career Web site

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