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Cover Letter Tips #1: Writing Good Cover Letters

The cover letter is somewhat of a mystery for some people.  What do I write?  How much detail do I use?  We’ll clarify how to write a good cover letter and what you should include in one.

There are three main purposes of a cover letter: (1) to convey to an employer that you are interested in a certain job opportunity, (2) that you have unique skills and talents that you feel are a good match, and (3) to request an interview to discuss employment possibilities.  A resume is included with the cover letter, so you should not duplicate the contents of the resume by placing it in the cover letter.  Instead, you need to highlight your specific professional goal, what makes you qualified and reasons why you are a good match for the position, including a brief discussion of relevant skills and experiences.

Avoid the temptation to do a “one size fits all” cover letter.  Each one should be unique and the recipient should get a clear sense of why you are interested in the specific opportunity at stake.

GUIDELINES FOR THE COVER LETTER

The cover letter should be as brief as possible – usually under a page.  No one likes to read lots of text, especially when many people are applying for the same job.  If possible, direct the letter to someone specific, rather than using a general “Dear Sir”, “Dear Madam”, or “To Whom it May Concern.”

Other guidelines to follow:

  1. Avoid cliches and trite statements – it’s obvious when people try to write bologna.
  2. Avoid the “naked resume” — always mail a resume with a cover letter.
  3. Be sure to follow any directions that they specify.
  4. Adapt the cover letter to address any expectations and requirements that are discussed.  Try to highlight connections between your past experiences and the needs of the employer.  Use examples when you can.
  5. Try to win the employer’s attention early on in the cover letter by connecting yourself with the opportunity in terms of your related experiences or skills.
  6. Use high quality paper and sharp laser printing where possible.
  7. End the letter with a request for an interview.
  8. Pay special attention to your grammar, spelling, and overall tidyness.  This letter should convey that you are capable of high quality work.  Have trusted individuals (preferably professionals)proofread it.
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