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How to Write Better Cover Letters
For many people new to job-seeking, cover letters sometimes seem unnecessary. You’ve already sent a resume, so why waste time writing a cover letter? A well-written cover letter is the perfect ice-breaker between you and the employer who is one step away from reading your resume. Employers like to glance over cover letters to get a general idea of the resume they’re about to read. Cover letters introduce you; they convey the true first impression. Cover letters must be well-written and interesting, perhaps even more so than the resume. Here’s how to do it.
LEARN THE BASICS
Your cover letter needs to address the same essential things: why you’re contacting this person, who you are, and how you plan to follow up. Dedicating a brief paragraph to each of these things will keep your reader engaged and also make it easy for him or her to find the information they need.
PARAGRAPH ONE: THE LETTER’S PURPOSE: State your purpose immediately after the initial greeting. Be as specific as possible; if someone has referred you, say so and give the person’s name. If there was no referral, then mention where you heard of the job. Remember always to convey your enthusiasm for the opportunity; the employer will appreciate your excitement and willingness.
PARAGRAPH TWO: YOUR QUALIFICATIONS: Though it won’t be as in-depth as your resume, you’ll need to outline your qualifications. Since you’re doing this in a limited space, you’ll need to position yourself immediately as the person for this job. If you’re responding to an ad or a referral, then mention your qualifications specifically with what they claim to be looking for; otherwise, mention some facts you’ve come across as you researched the company (you’ve done that, right?). And always, always, keep the focus on what you can offer the company, not what the company can offer you.
PARAGRAPH THREE: THE INTENDED FOLLOW-UP: In this conclusion paragraph, restate the enthusiasm conveyed in paragraph one and indicate when and how you plan to follow up. Mention if you have references or a portfolio upon request and make sure to give every piece of your contact information and the best times to reach you.
TARGET AND CUSTOMIZE
Employers often receive hundreds of responses to their job openings, and any flaw in your qualifications might cause them to throw your cover letter and resume in the rejection pile. Target only jobs you know you can do well and position your experience directly within the qualifications for those jobs. Don’t bother mentioning anything irrelevant; maybe you have a degree in art history, but that won’t do you any good if you’re looking for a job in publishing.
It’s also important to customize your cover letters for each individual recipient. A form letter may be easier for you, but it will look amateurish and lazy to a professional in any industry. Take the time to write a letter specifically for each employer; this attention to detail will fare better for you in your job search.
About the Author: Brian Konradt has been a professional freelance writer for over a decade. He is founder of LousyWriter.com ( http://www.LousyWriter.com ), a free online resource to improve your writing skills; and FreelanceWriting.com ( http://www.FreelanceWriting.com ), a free resource to help writers master freelance writing.