The Art of the Cover Letter

The cover letter is one of the most powerful components of a job-seeking package. You may have the most professional outfit and have spent hours fine tuning your interview skills. Yet, without an eye-catching cover letter you won’t get in the door for an interview. Because you only get one chance to make a first impression, your cover letter needs to be clear, direct and interesting to have your resume looked at and your interview scheduled.

Why a Cover Letter?

Hiring managers often look at the cover letter first, so it’s necessary to make it stand out. Whether you attach your cover letter, or use it as the body text in your email, take the time to write out a thoughtful and personalized cover letter. Attract positive attention to your work goals and experience. Add specific notes about the company that you have gathered from their website. Avoid run-on sentences and be clear and intentional in your word choice. Using a thesaurus to find the most complex words will make you sound phony, while using casual language you use with your friends will make you sound lazy. Adapt a clean, professional tone when addressing the hiring manager to sound intelligent, professional, and reliable.

Length

Try to make your cover letter three paragraphs. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself as well as your skill set. In the second paragraph, write about the company and how you feel you would be an asset to the company. In the third paragraph, conclude the letter with a request for an interview. Be sure to remind the hiring manager that your cover letter is attached in the email or letter. A cover letter that is longer than three paragraphs will bore and/or distract a hiring manager, so keep the length to a minimum.

Finishing Touches

Add a few finishing touches to your cover letter to set it apart from the rest. Place your name and contact information in the header if the letter is typed, printed and mailed to the hiring manager. If the cover letter is in the form of an email, place your contact information in the footer of the email below your name. If you know the name of the hiring manager, address the letter to them directly, or write “To Whom it May Concern.”

Read your cover letter three times before sending it off, to be sure it is free of typographical errors. Have a friend or relative read the cover letter over and provide feedback if necessary. When it comes to making a positive impression, you can never be too thoughtful, or too careful. Put your best job-finding foot forward with an eye-catching and professional cover letter that’s sure to get you in the door.

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