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Once you've written a top notch resume, it should always be accompanied by a top notch cover letter. The cover letter is the Yin to the resumes Yang. It allows the reader a glimpse into what makes you right for the job. The objective is to capture the reader in order to encourage them to look at your resume.
Before you sit down to write the content of the cover letter, use our Cover Letter Template to get you started. This is an easy solution to any formatting issues or any questions regarding the structure of your letter.
Next, let's begin with some dos and don'ts of writing a cover letter:
- Always address your letter to the intended recipient. This shows you are paying attention to detail and not using a generic cover letter to send to several people.
- Send the original to the prospective employer. This again, will show that you are writing a different letter for different positions.
- Use simple language and sentence structure. Don't overcomplicate your letter by using confusing words. Be clear and concise.
- Keep your letter brief. Your letter should be a summary of what makes you right for the job. This is your opportunity to persuade the reader to look further.
- Avoid negativity. Always stay positive as to your level of expertise. This will convey confidence.
- Answer the question "why should I hire you?" in the letter. Don't leave the person wondering what you have to offer. Clearly state the reasons you're right for the job.
- Don't use a salutation that implies gender when replying to an ad that doesn't specify a name. It's never a good idea to assume you know who will be reading your cover letter.
- Don't repeat your resume. The employer can simply look at your resume if they want a chronological list of what you've done in the past. Grab the reader by answering questions he or she might have and encourage them to look to your resume for more information.
- Don't be passive. Waiting for them to contact you could leave you waiting forever. Take a proactive approach. Tell the reader you will contact them to discuss a time to meet, but don't forget to do it. The standard is 3 business days after you send your resume and cover letter.
- Don't leave mistakes. Typos are the quickest way to leave a poor impression on a potential employer. Be sure to edit your letter thoroughly before sending it out.
- Don't use flashy stationery. You want the person to remain focused on your content, not the sparkly over-embellished border your paper has.
- Don't forget to sign it. Using blue ink is the standard for signing a cover letter. Be sure to give the letter your autograph before sending it on.
Now that you're ready to begin writing, here's what you should include:
The top left hand corner of your letter should be formatted the following way:
- Your name
- Street number
- City, State, Zip code
Skip two lines then continue with the following:
- Recipient name
- Recipient title
- Company name
- Street number
- City, State, Zip code
Skip two more lines to being your greeting. Your greeting should always begin with "Dear" and then the recipient's full name.
Now you're ready for the body. I will break down each paragraph by the information that each should contain.
- Explain to the reader why you are writing to them. This should grab the reader and make them want to read on.
Paragraph 2 and 3:
- Specify your qualifications for the position. Feel free to use bullet points to highlight your skills or accomplishments. It's perfectly acceptable to use the next 2 paragraphs to explain why you're right for the job, however, WikiHow.com suggests you not exceed 4 paragraphs total.
- Direct the employer to your enclosed resume but try to refrain from overused phrases like "my resume is enclosed here within". Follow with your availability for an interview. Next, explain when you will be contacting them to discuss, thank them for their time and give your contact information: phone number and email.
End your letter with one of these standard closings:
- Sincerely yours,
- Yours sincerely,
Skip four lines, print, and sign.
Emailing a cover letter is slightly different in structure. You will want to make an emailed cover letter shorter.
Begin by utilizing the subject line. A simple "Resume Submission" will do.
You need not fuss with the headings on an emailed cover letter, however, be sure to include the recipient's full name in the greeting and don't forget your closing and contact information.
Then, create the body using the same fundamentals as with a paper cover letter, however, QuintCareers.com suggests it be no longer than 150 words.
Be sure to adhere to spacing and leave out any emoticons or fancy font you might be tempted to use as this will distract the reader and make you seem unprofessional.
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