How to Write a Cover Letter

Many job postings require a cover letter to accompany the resume. Even if it does not, it is an excellent way to grab the attention of the hiring manager by including information that cannot be fully explained on your resume.

However, if not written well, the cover letter can hurt your job hunt more than it helps. Follow these tips when constructing your cover letter to be sure it makes your application stand out for the right reasons.

Personalize the Cover Letter
Address your cover letter to the hiring manager. With a little detective work, you can easily find out the name of the human resources director or department manager. Customize the letter to them by using their name instead of a generic “To Whom It May Concern” to show you have done your homework.

Customize Every Cover Letter
While you can use a standard template and incorporate the same information into each letter, the cover letter should be tailored to every job opening. Be sure to address the title of the job you are applying for and where you learned of the position in the opening paragraph. This is the place to name drop if you learned of the position through networking from a colleague of the hiring manager.

When reviewing your qualities, address how you fit the qualifications listed in the job posting. If possible, use the same wording as the job posting. If your resume and cover letter are scanned by a computer first for compatibility, the qualifications list will likely be major keywords in the computer scan. Using these keywords can ensure that your cover letter and resume pass this initial screen and make it to a real person.

Do Not Regurgitate Your Resume
Use the cover letter as a way to expand on the information included in your resume by providing examples that demonstrate your achievements. For example, if your resume states that you increased sales by 300% in six months at your current employer and sales ability is a qualification for the new job, describe your process. Explain you were able to achieve this level of sales by developing a new in-person sales technique that you later taught to the entire sales force.

Create a Strong Closing Paragraph
Many job seekers make the mistake of leaving the ball in the court of the hiring manager. A strong candidate will indicate in the closing paragraph a time and date when follow-up will occur to further discuss the position and inquire if additional information is needed. This shows the hiring manager you are serious about the position and willing to go the extra mile. It also indicates you have not blanketed your resume to every open position in the area.

Proofread Well
Have a colleague proof the cover letter for you for grammatical and spelling errors. Do not rely solely on your word processing program to catch these mistakes. A typo in the cover letter can quickly send your application to the nearest trash can.

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