The Art of the Cover Letter

One of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of resume sending is the cover letter (or these days, the e-mail). The cover letter is your chance to make your first impression. A properly written letter should grab the employer’s attention and help set the stage for a personal interview.

cover letter

Here are simple instructions and a few tips and suggestions for writing a quality cover letter.

How to Write a Cover Letter

The first paragraph of your cover letter should explain why you are writing and what position you are applying for. This paragraph should be concise while at the same time showing your knowledge of the position and the company. Use this opportunity to make a connection to the reader.

“I am writing to apply for the Jr. Typist position. I first learned of XYZ, Inc. after reading the ‘Top 100 Left Handed Work Environments’ in Forbes magazine. Being an advocate for left handed rights, I decided right away that XYZ, Inc. would be a perfect match.”

The second paragraph of your cover letter is generally the “meat and potatoes.” This paragraph should explain to the employer why you are qualified for the position. The first sentence should be your power statement on why you are a match for the position. Follow the first sentence with 2 to 3 specific accomplishments or traits that support your argument. This is not the time for your life story, so list your most relevant, impressive experience. Do not copy these statements word for word from your resume, instead take the opportunity to craft a more conversational tone. The final sentence of this paragraph should summarize your argument while mentioning the position again. Bring it all back home.

“My uncanny ability to find solutions to common left-handed issues has made me the ‘go-to’ member of our local Left Handers Community Center. I have been published in three of the last four quarterly newsletters, and have recently been awarded member of the decade. Next fall, I will graduate with a masters in Left Handed Literature. With these experiences, I feel that I would instantly be able to contribute to your Typist division at XYZ Inc.

You have opened the door and walked through it. Now it is time to shut it behind you. The third paragraph should be just a few sentences to wrap things up. Thank them for their time, inform them of any enclosures (i.e., your resume), request a personal interview and set a time table. Never end a letter without this call to action, and make sure that you hold to it on your end.

“Enclosed is my resume for your review. I will contact you on the week of July 15th to discuss my qualifications and interest in the Jr. Typist position. Thank you for your time and consideration.”

Print the letter on professional looking paper that matches your resume. Sign the document in ink and smile. You have just separated yourself from countless other applicants!

Cover Letter Tips and Suggestions

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Avoid contractions (Won’t, I’d I’ve, etc.)
  • Spell check and grammar check. Twice. Have a friend or loved one read the letter to make sure it flows nicely.
  • Use active descriptions, make yourself the subject of the sentence and avoid writing in the passive voice.
  • Do not justify or otherwise offer a reason for leaving your last position. Keep things forward looking.
  • Avoid the use of heavy industry jargon. Many times, the folks reviewing the letter are not specifically trained in the position you are applying for.
  • Address the letter to the person reading it. Do a little bit of research online and try to figure out who will be reading the letter.
  • Consider faxing a resume and cover letter to differentiate yourself from all the incoming e-mails. If you really want to get attention, fed-ex your resume and cover letter to the employer. 😉

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