When looking for jobs, most people go for the most obvious. They consult newspapers, staffing agencies or look for internal postings within companies. Yet, there are numerous jobs that are not advertised, or readily available to the common job seeker. This is where the often under-utilized query letter comes in. Instead of handing in a resume and hoping for the best, a query letter is a way to get your foot in the door at a company you want to work for. This is especially important in tough times, when jobs may not be readily available.
So what is a query letter? It is simply a sort of introduction of your skills and experience, as well as a way for the person reading it to determine if you are useful to their company. The reason most people don't use query letters is that they are time consuming, and are often seen as redundant, especially if you are handing in your resume as well. Yet a query letter is more powerful than a resume, because it is personally addressed, outlines your experience and education, and helps you present yourself in a more valuable way than a regular, plain resume. This is especially true with people who have vast amounts of experience or schooling, but struggle to fit it easily on a resume. After all, a resume is only supposed to be one to two pages. Trying to put years of work, education, volunteering, special interests, goals etc on such a small space greatly diminishes their value.
A query letter lets you outline your most powerful assets in written format. For example, a person applying for a position as a cook can outline what their past duties were, in a verbally powerful way. Their potential employer may not be looking for a cook per se, but if they see that the applicant has experience and training, and took the initiative to ask for a position, they may see their true value and find a place for them in their company. Nowadays, resumes are too often the norm for applying for jobs. Companies get flooded with them, especially in a time like now when jobs are scarce and applicants plentiful. Thus, anything you can do to distinguish yourself from the masses is important, as its an employers market.
Finally, with a query letter, it is much easier to get your foot into the door. The key here is to end your query letter with something like "Thank you for your time, i will be calling you/visiting you within x amount of days to discuss possible positions for me at your company". This not only demonstrates initiative, i.e. you are proactive in securing yourself a position, but it gives you that all important personal contact with the human resources director or hiring manager! This is something no resume, unless you are extremely well educated and experienced, and manage to find a way to make your resume stand out, can do. However, it is also extremely important to follow up when you say you will, or you will lose that contact and the ability to get your dream job. Nobody wants to hire someone who doesn't keep to their appointments.
Keep these things in mind, and your job search may land you that dream position you have always wanted and deserve. Don't cut corners when you apply for a job, as times aren't what they used to be. Employers aren't begging for workers anymore, and only the best and most innovative will get hired.