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How To Write A Great Cover Letter

Aug 17, 2007
If you're serious about landing a job that you want, you need to put all the chances you can on your side, making yourself look attractive to potential employers. Many people think that cover letters are a wasted effort and that employers skip right to the resume, but the truth is that a cover letter is the first thing an employer sees as a representation of who you are and needs to catch their interest and look professional.

Speaking of attitudes, the first thing you want a cover letter to convey is your personal attitude, even though you're also trying to introduce yourself to a potential employer and set the stage for your resume at the same time. Of course, this is no mean feat when you're trying to confine the cover letter to one single page in length. Consider the attitude you want to convey from the start, and then set out to write the cover letter in that mindset.

The first parts of a cover letter are simple. Your name, address, and contact information are centered at the top and should be easily visible. The date, as well as the name, title, organization and business address of the person you're sending the cover letter to goes below that, aligned to the left (as will be the rest of the cover letter). Below that information, open your covering letter with a simple "Dear Mr. or Ms. (last name of your employer here)," as per any normal letter you would send. There, that wasn't so bad, was it?

After that, you'll want to open your cover letter with something that will grab the reader's attention from the start. This attention-grabber is the lead-in for a short paragraph of three to four sentences, in which you establish a connection with your reader, as well as telling the reader what position you're applying for and where you heard of the employment opportunity.

Catching and holding a reader's interest is a task of the most utmost importance, as a bored reader will quickly move on to something else and you'll lose your chance. Keep in mind, though, that you need to also show your professionalism and avoid writing anything that may turn the reader off completely.

Now that you've established a rapport with your reader and potential employer, it's time to write the mid-section of the letter. This mid-section should carry on for about one or two short paragraphs at most. Remember, individuals today don't have much time and the world is a fast-paced place.

Traditionally, this mid-section of the cover letter is where you discuss your qualifications, but another quirk of the business world is that you're not supposed to sum up your resume. Highlight your most relevant qualifications for the job and describe your intangible qualifications, such as enjoying working with people or your love of an intellectual challenge.

The last paragraph of your cover letter is where you close things off and let your employer know what you're going to do from this point on. You should be clear as to whether you're going to follow up with a phone call in a few days' time or whether you'd prefer that the employer contact you if they're interested. Always be clear so that there's no mistaking what's going to happen (or should happen) next. Also, by stating your intentions, you're showing your employer that you're self-confident and assertive, but do remember to be friendly!

When you've finished your cover letter, add "Sincerely yours," leave yourself some space for a signature, add your name, and then the phrase "Enclosure: Resume" at the bottom of the page. Should your cover letter be longer than a single page, go back and edit it until you have everything you need on one page - remember that clear and concise is best. While you may not land this job with your cover letter and might have to write many more, consider each letter a task that brings you one step closer to the job that you really want to have.
About the Author
John Edmond owns and writes regularly for Careerbuilder Jobs where you can find more information and advice on all aspects of cover letters and finding a career .
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