A Guide to Writing Effective Cover Letters

Your cover letter can help land you a job

When it comes to looking for a job, a cover letter is necessary and can substantially improve your ability to compete in the current job market. Cover letters are useful for both employers and applicants. For each available position, employers have to sometimes go through hundreds of resumes, and a cover letter is what adds a bit of individuality to the anonymous resumes. The cover letter gives the applicant a quick chance (think of it an elevator pitch) to tell employers why they stand out from the rest of the applicant pool in ways that a resume fails to do. Here are 8 helpful tips for writing a persuasive and personable cover letter:

1. Be sure to add the proper heading and date: Many people use cover letter templates as a starting point. If you are using a downloaded template or an old cover letter, make sure the information at the top of the page is correct. The date should be correct as well as your current address and phone number.

2. Do not use general salutations: Try to skip using “To whom it may concern” at all costs. Make every attempt to find out the name of the hiring manager before sending your application. This is where your internet research skills will come in handy. Sites such as LinkedIn are great resources for job hunters who are looking for company information. If you do know the contact name, make sure you spell his or her name properly.

3. Make a strong introduction: The introductory paragraph is the most important one because it might be the only paragraph that gets read. Introduce yourself and state the position for which you are applying. You may want to mention how you heard about the opening, especially if it was through a special alumni database or through a connection with the company. Leave out the mundane details and get right to the point. Aim for an opening sentence that states your main qualifications as well as your objectives.

4. Keep it conversational: While your resume should be as professional as possible, show some personality in your cover letter. This will ensure that the reader is less likely to disregard it. Using a conversational tone makes people feel like they have a rapport even if you have never met. Taking the time to get personal is really important; make an effort to show the company why you are a good match.

5. Use the job description to your advantage: Your cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for, relating your skills and experience to those noted in the job posting. For example, if the company is looking for a detailed-oriented, organized department manager, highlight those exact skills. You want to show that you’re the best fit for the job. Having the confidence to state that you’re the best person for the position sends the message that you are a qualified applicant.

6. Do not reiterate information from your resume: While it may be tempting to do, avoid repeating the information that’s already on your resume. You can capture more interest by restating your main points and allowing the reader to see how you will succeed in the new job. In other words, your cover letter should expand on your qualifications and serve as a bridge to your resume. Talk about specific projects and state how your experiences have prepared you to take on the position for which you are applying. Show some creativity and motivate employers to check out your resume.

7.  Avoid using “I” as much as possible: Instead of starting every sentence with “I,” focus on the job and the employer’s requirements. Even though the cover letter is a demonstration of your skills and achievements, it doesn’t have to be all about you in a grammatical sense. When you create a verbal picture of what you can achieve, it rarely starts with “I,” and structuring your thoughts in this manner can help reinforce the importance of the company’s needs.

8. Always proofread your cover letter: Proofread your cover letter multiple times. Then have a friend or colleague proofread it as well. It never hurts to have another pair of eyes take a look, especially if you’ve been working on the cover letter for a long time. Make sure the date is correct, and that the name of the company is spelled properly. Getting information like that incorrect, simply because you copied and pasted from an old cover letter, is a surefire way of destroying your chances of getting called in.

Don’t forget to create and include a strong cover letter as part of your job hunting strategy. A cover letter is a personal and effective introduction to your skills. What is your best advice for writing cover letters?


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