When you submit your résumé, a cover letter should accompany it. Not only does the letter introduce you and your résumé, but it also allows you to express your individuality, demonstrate your writing skills, and focus the reader's attention on specific items in your résumé that are particularly relevant to the position. Many employers receive hundreds of résumés each week. A cover letter should complement, not duplicate, the résumé. Combined with the résumé, a letter is a marketing tool that adds a personal touch. It should pique the employer's interest, explain how your qualifications relate to the position, persuade the employer to want to meet you and provide a plan of action.
But how do you put together that winning cover letter? How can you demonstrate to potential employers professionalism through your materials?
Address your letter to a specific person
- Make an effort to address your letter to the person with authority to hire you.
- If needed, call the company and ask for the appropriate person's name.
- Verify spelling, and for gender ambiguous names, find out if the person is male or female.
- Whenever possible, avoid clichéd phrases such as "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam."
Catch the reader's attention
- Break the ice by referencing a person with a connection to the reader. For example, "David Smith encouraged me to contact you since he believes my skills would excellently meet your department's needs."
- Use this technique when writing a prospecting or inquiry letter. These letter types are used when there is no advertised job opening.
Explain your reason for writing
- If applying for a specific opening, state precisely what the position is and how you learned of it, especially if you had a referral.
- Avoid lackluster openings such as "I am applying for the accounting position advertised in last Sunday's newspaper."
- Focus upon the reader's needs and interests. Remember that employers are looking for the best person to fulfill their needs and are not interested in what they can do for job seekers.
- Stress the ways the company will benefit from your skills, education, and experience.
Show your knowledge of the company or organization
- Before contacting the employer, research the company or organization. You need to know information about the company before you can determine if you and the organization are a good fit.
- Show your knowledge by explaining how you would benefit the organization and why it interests you.
- By demonstrating you have researched the company, you prove your motivation, interest, and willingness to work hard.
Highlight significant qualifications
- Don't merely repeat the information on your résumé.
- Carefully select those qualifications that are more relevant to the position and expand upon them.
- Use your company research to pinpoint the qualifications that individual employers require.
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