Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter

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An employer’s first impression of you doesn’t start when you walk into the interview—it starts when you submit your job application. One way to set yourself apart from other applicants is by submitting a cover letter with your résumé. While a résumé may summarize your credentials and work experience, a cover letter demonstrates how you can apply your experiences to the position you are applying for. Here are some tips to help your cover letter become an effective marketing tool.

Organize Your Thoughts

Before writing a cover letter, review the job description and write down key words and phrases. Note the specific skills and requirements needed for the job, and then determine which of your qualifications align with what the company is looking for. Add those qualifications to your résumé so you can refer to them when writing your cover letter.

Research the Job Position

Network with employees at the company you are interested in. Request informational interviews to learn more about the company’s mission, goals, and values. As you learn more about the company, find solutions to problems you perceive and integrate into your cover letter how you will apply your talents to solve these issues. This proactive approach will show the employer you understand what he or she needs and expects in an employee.

Address and Close Your Cover Letter Appropriately

In your research, find out to whom you should address your cover letter. Always use the recipient’s first and last name or his or her appropriate title. Avoid using generic salutations and informal closings whenever possible. See the article “Writing a Professional Email” for more information on how to address and close your cover letter.

Follow the Three-Paragraph Rule

If you use a format that hiring managers are familiar with, you will ensure that they find the information they are looking for when they review your cover letter. As you write your cover letter, include the specific job title you are applying for and use other key words that the employer will recognize as requirements for the job. The three-paragraph rule will help the reader understand the content.

  • Introductory Paragraph—Explain why you are writing. State the position you are applying for. If you found out about the position through a mutual contact, include the contact’s name. Be clear and concise regarding your interest in the job.
  • Body Paragraph—Use power statements to make strong connections between your skills and the company’s needs. Describe how your professional experiences can benefit the company and how you can be an asset to the employer. Using bullet points or lists instead of a paragraph helps emphasize important information and improve readability.
  • Closing Paragraph—Always conclude on a positive note by thanking the recipient for considering you for the position. State politely that you look forward to an interview and include information on how you will follow up with the recipient.

Keep It Short

Your cover letter should not exceed one page. Sometimes using a template can eliminate the problem of having too much to say in too little space. Hiring managers and recruiters value well-written and efficient cover letters. If you write more than one page, you may be sending the message that you can’t be succinct or don’t respect the employer’s time.

Use Standard Formatting

  • Include contact information at the top of your cover letter.
  • Use a legible-sized font (10–12 points).
  • Use a simple font style, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
  • Single-space your cover letter.
  • Align all paragraphs to the left of the page, or indent the first line of each paragraph to the right.
  • Use standard margins (often one inch).
  • Leave a space between your heading and greeting.
  • Leave a space between each paragraph.
  • Leave three spaces between the closing and your typed name.
  • Sign your name between the closing and your typed name.

Review Your Cover Letter before You Send It

Review your cover letter to ensure you have written the appropriate date, company name, job title, and recipient’s name. Make sure to proofread, spell-check, and reread your cover letter to fix any errors. It’s also a good idea to ask someone else to review your cover letter to correct any typos or mistakes and ensure that your cover letter adequately conveys your skills and qualifications for the position you are applying for.

With your professional résumé and succinct cover letter side by side, you’re on your way to getting a call for an interview. Check out interview tips here


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