Writing Effective Cover Letters

Writing Effective Cover Letters

by Carly Wignes
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

A cover letter is a formal letter used to introduce yourself to a potential employer and to convince him or her that you are the best candidate for the job.  Its purpose is to highlight the skills you have that are relevant to the job you want to apply for.  Employers are very busy people who usually receive hundreds of applications for any particular job.  That means an effective cover letter has to immediately grab their attention and tell the employer why he or she should spend time learning about you.  Keep your cover letter on topic and try to use succinct sentences that are relevant to the job.

To write an effective cover letter, you must include three important elements.  First, introduce yourself, identify the position you are applying for and explain how you found out about the position.  This can be done in a single, introductory paragraph.  Next, in the body paragraph, explain why you are qualified for the position by describing your skills and how you demonstrated those skills in past jobs, volunteer positions or at school.  You probably have lots of skills that could apply to a range of different jobs.  However, it is best to discuss in your cover letter only the skills that will be most useful for the job and keep discussion of all of your other strengths for the interview that will come later.  But how do you figure out which skills are the most important to include in the letter?  You can figure out which skills to discuss in the cover letter by closely reading the job application and trying to get a clear sense of what the job will entail.  Finally, in the third and last paragraph of the cover letter, ask the employer to set up an interview and thank them for considering your application.  Always make sure to include your contact information so they will know how to get in touch.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when writing an effective cover letter:

  1. Do your homework:  Learn as much as you can about the company you are applying to so you can show, in your cover letter, that you will be a good addition to the organization.
  2. Follow instructions:  Be sure to clearly answer everything that is asked in the job posting in your cover letter.
  3. Be brief:  Your cover letter should usually be made up of three paragraphs and never be more than one page long.
  4. Personalize your letter:  If possible, address the cover letter to a specific person by using their name and title.  Do not misspell the name.
  5. Don’t just restate your resume:  Usually employers read the cover letter first, so catch their attention in a way that persuades them to continue reading your resume.

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