You have found a job that sounds ideal. You might have the exact skills that the employer is looking for, but unless you can broadcast your abilities, the employer may never know you are the perfect candidate. A well-crafted cover letter will compel an employer to review your resume and bring you in for an interview. Cover letters essentially provide a platform for you to introduce and sell yourself. You have just a few paragraphs to make a good impression. You should create a unique, business-format cover letter for each resume you send out. Your cover letter should reflect your enthusiasm for the specific position for which you are interested. Since you have a very limited amount of time to grab an employer's attention, the cover letter should be kept to one page, and include the following four parts:

Salutation
If at all possible, send your cover letter to a specific person instead of "To Whom it May Concern." You can call the company and ask for the name of the person hiring that position if you do not know to whom to address the cover letter. Ask how to spell the person's name and inquire about his or her title. If you are told that "Pat Smith" is hiring (or some other gender-neutral name), confirm that you are addressing your cover letter to Mr. Pat Smith (you will be told "Yes, Mr. Smith" or "No, that's Mrs. Smith). It is less embarrassing to ask this over the phone than to get it wrong on the cover letter. Use a colon after the person's name instead of a comma.


Opening
This section of the cover letter should inform the reviewer for which position you are applying and the connection that you have with the firm. For example, here is where you mention if the reviewer's brother recommended you apply for the job, or that you are responding to a job posting you saw (mention where you saw the posting).


Body
This section of the cover letter is where you sell yourself. Rather that repeating your resume (which would be boring to the reviewer), provide a very brief description of your qualifications and why they make you a good fit for the position. You should stick to qualifications that are pertinent to this particular position unless it is a noteworthy accomplishment that can be directly related. You can explain any gaps in your work history if necessary; otherwise, stick to positive information.


Closing
The last paragraph allows you to thank the reviewer, request an interview and provide your phone number. Show your enthusiasm for the position, and follow-up on any promises made. For instance, if you state that you will call, make sure you do. Include a complementary close such as "Respectfully yours," your signature, and your first and last names.


It is extremely important that your cover letter contains no spelling or grammatical errors. From a purely style standpoint, it is also a good idea to avoid starting every sentence with "I" (this is actually harder to do than it sounds) and to stay away from clichés. And, as this is a business letter, do not use "text" writing. For example, do not sign your letter with "Thx!," "TTYL!" or "Hope 2CU soon!" If you have errors and unprofessional text-style writing in your cover letter, you have given your reviewer a reason to put your file in the "Thanks for trying" pile.


Next: The Complete Guide To Job Searching: The Resume »

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