1) What is the proper tone of a cover letter? The impressions your cover letter gives to prospective employers about you often have a tremendous bearing on your ability to get an interview. Your letter should be well written, and you should sound enthusiastic and confident about your ability to add value to the company, without sounding pretentious.
2) What is the protocol for requesting an interview? Should I tell the employer that I will contact him/her at a certain time, rather than asking to be contacted? Some experts may tell job seekers to make the first phone call rather than wait, but it is not always in the job seeker's best interest. Employers do not want to be hounded by job seekers. They will contact you if they are interested.
3) Do I need to show I have researched the firm/company I'm applying to? The more you know about a company, the more knowledgeable you sound. But do not inundate the employer with facts he/she already knows.
4) Should I mention salary requirements in my cover letter? With salary requirements, it is best to be flexible. Why risk mentioning a level that is below what you could get after they have met you?
5) Is there a specific cover letter format I need to use? As with a resume, the format of your cover letter should be dictated by your particular experience.
6) What is the best way to deal with employment dates that could possibly be construed as having a negative connotation? Dates that show you are currently unemployed, prone to hopping jobs, or not the typical age of someone who might be considered ideal should probably be avoided. However, if you need to explain them, you can put the correct spin on them in your cover letter.
7) If I have been laid-off/fired/quit, how do I broach this subject? You have to put it in the best possible light. Casting aspersions on your former employer will not make anyone want you aboard, for fear you may exhibit similar behavior if/when you leave them.