September 23, 2008

Tips for Success: How to Write a Cover Letter

Last week, we looked at six tips for writing a killer resume. Whether you send your resume in a mail box or via e-mail, you need to be sure that you send it with a cover letter.

For many job searchers, writing a cover letter can be an incredibly daunting task.

Well, take a deep breath (and grab a cup of coffee), because I’m going to help you demystify the cover letter. There are two reasons you need to write a cover letter: 1) to enthusiastically express your interest in the position and 2) to identify your experiences most relevant to the job.

The purpose of the cover letter is NOT to reiterate the data on your resume.  Instead, aim to share new information, or — better yet — offer a new take on the information contained in your resume. Draw connections between your varied experiences, and then explain how the skills you have learned through those experiences make you the right fit for the job at hand.

Your cover letter should be 3-5 short paragraphs, fitting on about two-thirds of a page.  Here’s what you need to cover:

* First, explain how you learned about the job: Did you find the job through an job board? Did you hear about it through a friend who works at the company? Mention briefly how you found the job.

* Second, explain why you are the best fit for the job. Here is your chance to really sell yourself, so don’t understate your experiences.  If you are responding to an ad, check the wording carefully.  Be sure that your "pitch" addresses that terminology. 

* Third, say thank you.  And tell the reader what you will be doing to follow-up: restate your contact information (email, phone) when asking the reader to be in touch with you.  Better yet, offer that you will follow up in the coming days. Then make sure that you do just that.

Writing cover letters is a learned skill. The more your practice, the better you become. In the meantime, ask a trusted friend, family member or colleague to review your letter and give you tips for improving your writing.

Time-Saving Tip: Create one (or several) general templates that you adjust as necessary for each new job.

Are you a good writer of cover letters? What are your best tips?

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