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Writing an effective cover letter

POSTED: November 20, 2013 12:12 p.m.
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An effective cover letter is often the first step toward securing a new job.

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A strong cover letter may not guarantee you land a good job, but a poor cover letter may guarantee you won't. On its own, an effective cover letter can catch the eye of hiring managers tasked with finding worthy candidates among stacks of applications, while a poor cover letter may ensure hiring managers never even glance at an applicant's resume.

An effective cover letter should be concise, conveying an applicant's work history and goals in a few paragraphs or less. The following are some additional ways men and women can craft effective cover letters.

• Address a specific person when possible. When responding to a job posting that listed a specific contact, address your cover letter to that person rather than beginning the letter with, "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern." Personalize each cover letter you write so the hiring manager does not get the feeling that you are sending out cover letters en masse. Make sure names are spelled correctly and job titles are accurate.

• State your purpose early on. The purpose of your letter, which is to state the job you're seeking, should be made clear early on. Hiring managers often handle the vetting process for a host of positions at their companies, so the earlier the hiring manager knows which position you're applying for the better. Hiring managers may become frustrated when applicants don't make their intentions clear or do so in the final paragraph instead of the first.

• Explain why you are a qualified candidate. While it's good to note your work history, your resume will do the bulk of that legwork. A cover letter is your opportunity to show how your work history makes you a qualified candidate for a specific position. Remember to be concise but relate a specific example that illustrates how your work history would help you thrive in the position for which you're applying.

• Exhibit some knowledge about the company to which you're applying. An effective cover letter should help you stand out among your fellow applicants, and expressing some knowledge about the organization can do just that. The goal here is to illustrate how you and the organization are a good fit, so you don't need to go overboard or be too specific. But hiring managers are likely to be more impressed by applicants who do their homework and show a knowledge of the company than applicants who submit a form cover letter where the company is scarcely mentioned.

• Be cordial in your closing. A cover letter should close with a cordial request for an interview or a friendly way of indicating you look forward to a company's response to your application. In addition, thank the reader for his or her time and mention you would be delighted to answer any questions he or she may have.

An effective cover letter can go a long way toward making a strong first impression on a prospective employer. Men and women should look at their cover letters as their first opportunities to connect with a company and write their letters accordingly.

 

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