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Standard Cover Letter Writing

Philosophy

A recent nationwide survey by Accountemps found that 60 percent of executives believe the cover letter is either as important as or more critical than the resume. A cover letter allows you to direct the reader's attention to aspects of your resume that are most relevant, demonstrate your knowledge of the company you're writing to, and explain any part of your work history that needs clarification. Like a written interview, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to point out applicable experience and qualities that make you right for the job. Before an employer sees your résumé or meets you in person, they begin forming an impression about you from your cover letter. Treat your cover letter as if it were the first meeting with your potential employer. Not many employers will give you a chance for an interview if you leave them with a bad first impression. So, make your cover letter count. 

The Letter

Cover the basics 

Your letter should be brief (ideally 3-4 paragraphs), and easy to read. Include your full name, address, and phone number in case your cover letter becomes separated from your resume. It should be written in the format of a formal business letter.

Personalize it 

Avoid using "Dear Hiring Manager"; find out the name of the company's human resources contact or recruiter. You can usually find this information by logging on to the company's website or calling the main phone number and asking a receptionist for the name and title of the hiring manager. Be sure to ask for the correct spelling. A prospective employer who sees his or her name spelled incorrectly may assume you are not detail-oriented.  Once you have a contact name, experts recommend using the person's formal title such as "Mr.", "Ms." or "Mrs.”

Write a strong opening

The opening sentence of a cover letter should announce its purpose (even though the purpose may seem obvious) and give the reader a compelling reason to read on. If someone mentioned the job opening to you, be sure to use his or her name in the introduction: "I am writing to you at the suggestion of John Doe, who told me you may be looking for an office manager."  If you're responding to an advertisement for a job, say so in your letter: "I am applying for the marketing manager position advertised in the Daily News."  State which job you are applying for and make sure to include other specific details such as a job ID number (if one was provided).  Continue with a statement that explains why you believe you are a good fit for the position. 

Have personality

One of the objectives of a good cover letter is to make a personal connection with the reader. Gone are the days when you could simply change the name of the company in your salutation, attach it to your resume and fire it off to the employer. Recruiters see right through these types of letters and recognize them for what they are – mass production job hunting.

Do some legwork and be enthusiastic. 

Don't send a generic letter. A winning cover letter will require some research into the company's history and recent accomplishments.  You can make a much better impression by mentioning the company name and saying something flattering about the company. You can learn what companies pride themselves on, including their products and achievements, by checking their websites. It should show the reader that you have some knowledge of their company and that you made an informed decision when you decided to apply for a job at their company.

Show your worth. 

The body of the letter should expand upon -- not simply repeat -- the key points in your résumé. When writing your letter, keep the requirements of the job in mind and address them specifically. Remember, it's not what the company can do for you; it's what you can do for the company that counts. Focus on what value you can bring to the employer, such as increasing revenues or cutting costs. If a company advertises that it is looking for sales experience, make sure you address your sales experience. 

One way to do this is by making a table for yourself before writing your letter. List the company's stated needs in one column, and your corresponding experience and qualifications in another column. You can then use that information to write a letter that tells them exactly what they want to know. Don't make the reader work too hard to see that you are right for the position. Include specific examples about your past successes and experience. If you are looking for a marketing position, give the reader detailed information about a marketing campaign you successfully executed. Don't just tell the reader that you are motivated. Give an example that shows your motivation. You need to lay all of your pertinent information out in a way that lets the person making the hiring decision easily see how your experience and qualities fit the company's needs.

Explain your current situation. 

Are you finishing school or in a full-time job? Can you begin work immediately or are you available upon completion of an internship? Clarify these points in your cover letter.

Be brief.

Hiring managers receive letters and resumes from dozens and even hundreds of applicants, and often just don't have the time to read lengthy, wordy letters. 

End your letter with an action item. 

Go ahead and tell the hiring manager you want that interview. Express that your cover letter and resume are just the tip of the iceberg and you look forward to a face-to-face conversation. Nobody gets a job by sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. Since you are the one looking for work, you need to take the initiative and follow up. Instead of ending the letter with "I look forward to hearing from you," close with "I will call you next week to discuss a time for us to meet." Once you've included this call to action, however, make sure you follow through on your own promise.

Closing the letter. 

End the letter with Sincerely, Sincerely Yours, or Cordially. And, while it sounds almost too obvious to mention, be sure to sign your letter.

Write and edit your letter with great care. 

Nothing says "I don't really want this job" like a cover letter with typos, incorrect information, or spelling errors. Proof your letter carefully; do not rely on spell check. If possible, have someone else proof your letter as well.  Careless -- and easily correctable -- mistakes tell the company that you did not take this simple task seriously.

Information pulled from www.careerbuilder.com

SAMPLE COVER LETTER

Your Name 
Your Address 
Your City, State, Zip Code 
Your Phone Number 
Your Cell Phone Number 
Your Email 

Date 

Dear Mr. [Hiring Manager Name],

I would like to express my interest in the position with Company as posted on www.listingsite.com. Throughout my job search and conversations with a Company employee, I have come to respect the professionalism that characterizes your Company and its employees. I am confident that the Company team values and objectives would highly complement my own strengths and enthusiasm. 

I was impressed to learn of Company’s recent acquisition, a tactic which I see as indicative of Company’s commitment to achieving growth and success in the future. Innovative and exciting approaches such as this convinced me that Company is the ideal environment to begin my career. 

Evidence of my leadership and problem solving skills can be seen in my responsibilities as an intern at Company B and my commitment to my academics.  As an intern, I implemented a newsletter that was distributed to 30,000 people and created new advertising revenue for Company B. For two years in college, I was a student government representative and created change in policies on campus to positively impact students.

Please review the enclosed resume and consider my application for your position. I have recently completed my internship and would be available to start immediately.  I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and explore the company environment, as well as possible job opportunities at Company. I will call your office next week to discuss these possibilities. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you concerning a career at Company and the positive contributions I would offer as a member of your organization. 

Thank you for your consideration. 

Signature 

First Name Last Name 

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