Your cover letter is usually the first thing seen by whoever starts the process of screening you for a job. So it’s your crucial first impression. A bad cover letter could put you right out of the running; a good one could put you at the top of the pile. The cover letter is also your chance to make points that can’t be made in a résumé, and to highlight those of your strengths that are of particular interest to each employer.

For higher-level jobs, and where the employer requests a cover-letter with an application, your cover letter will probably travel with your résumé. However, for junior positions, cover letters aren’t invariably transmitted up the ladder along with your résumé, especially in electronic applicant processing (ATS) environments. So the essential points need to be in the résumé.

Thank-you letters (sometimes called “follow-up letters”) are also important. They establish a civil personal relationship with the person who has interviewed you. They give you a chance to express your continued interest in the job—a factor to which employers are very sensitive. And they also give you a chance to make or re-emphasize points you overlooked or under-emphasized in the interview, or that occurred to you only after learning more about the employer during the interview. A good thank-you letter can boost your standing with a potential employer, and could make the difference between being rejected and being called back for another interview.

Effective cover letters and thank-you letters must be individualized for each job you apply for. There’s no getting around that. And it’s well worth the effort, because sending form letters is a serious mistake. People who are hiring want to see that your interests and experience are a good fit for their firm and for the particular job, and that you have a definite interest in working for them. Generic letters don’t cut it—employers want concrete details that show you’re thinking about that job and their company.

I make it as easy as possible to customize effective, factual letters for each prospect. I provide cover- and thank-you letters in the form of templates, with alternate paragraphs you can chose from to tailor the letters for each application. I provide instructions for using the templates, and examples to show how the letter should look.

My letter templates will help you apply the same approach to job seeking that a BTB sales professional applies to sales. You should do some research on a firm before you send an application to them, and look at writing letters in something like the way you would look at putting together a business proposal. As you may know, corporate business proposals are often based on templates—but they’re carefully individualized for each prospect. Job letters should be the same.

(By the way, I’ve been offering customizable cover- and thank-you letter templates since Crystal Résumés started in 2008. Back then, nobody else offered anything like them. In recent years, they seem to have caught on.)