Think of a cover letter like window shopping. If you aren’t won over by what you see on the outside, you may never go in to take a closer look at what the company is selling. The same can be said for an effective cover letter. It is a potential employer’s first impression of you.
The reality is your resume may never be read without a compelling cover letter. Your cover letter should sell your resume, and therefore, sell you. Crafting a highly effective cover letter will not only strengthen the odds of your resume being read, but will increase your chances of landing an interview.
Here are the seven essential elements you need to include in your cover letter.
date and company address
To begin, include the employers’ contact information, such as the name of the hiring manager, that person’s title and the address of the company. That information can be found with a simple internet search. There are several ways you can format this section, but in most cases you should mirror the look of a business letter.
This is your opportunity to eliminate any doubt about the position for which you are applying. Your cover letter should clearly state the job title or reference number of the position you are interested in, and the reference line is the ideal place to include this information. Also, to further enhance your cover letter, include specific keywords from the job posting or position description in the reference line.
The most effective way to begin your letter is to address it to the specific hiring manager, using “Dear Mr.” or “Dear Ms.” and then the person’s last name. However, if you are unable to locate the name of the recipient, it is acceptable to use “To whom it may concern:” noting that you should use a colon at the end of the salutation, not a comma or a period.
The first paragraph is important because it needs to convey why you are writing the letter. Even though you included the job reference number or title in the reference line, it is best to repeat that information here as well. You also need to state that you’ve included or attached your resume. Consider mentioning where you learned of the job opening – the local newspaper, website, job board, etc.
Use the next paragraphs to describe why you are qualified for the position. Be sure to address the qualifications that were included in the job opening, and how your specific skills and experience make you qualified for the position. List any accomplishments or experience you feel makes you a unique fit for the position.
It never hurts to be polite and courteous in your closing paragraph, so include a sentence like “thank you for your consideration” or “thank you for interest in considering me for this position.” Be sure to include your phone number (even though it is on your resume) and invite them to contact you for an interview.
Make sure you leave enough space for your signature. Be sure to include a “sincerely,” or “sincerely yours.”
Following these tips can be valuable in helping you organize, target and edit your job-winning cover letter easily and effectively. But don’t assume your cover letter can stand alone. Look for contacts in the organization using your LinkedIn network to see if you know anyone who could assist in submitting you for the role internally and/or make an introduction. Once you have applied, keep a copy of your cover letter, resume and job ad together. This will allow you to easily review the requirements of the position when you are called for an interview.
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