About Standard Cover Letter Formats

John Scott
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For today’s job seekers, the competition is ferocious. For every job you apply for, you only have one chance to grab the prospective employer's attention. Your cover letter must succeed in doing just that in a mere matter of seconds. It is imperative that your cover letter format is clean and professional.

If there is a death knell with cover letter formats, it’s to craft one that sounds and looks like every other cover letter on the block. Think about it from the standpoints of employers: for every job opening they have, they are literally reading hundreds of cover letters and resumes. Your cover letter format needs to look and sound original. One way to do this is to avoid using templates or copying standard formats. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with starting with a template or modeling cover letters you like, but your success lies in writing and formatting a cover letter that uniquely reflects you.

Once you have set up your basic cover letter format, your next task is to organize your cover letter. This is where the real skill comes in. First, if you don’t have the name of the hiring manager, do everything in your power to find who that person is. If you absolutely cannot locate a name, you can opt for anything from the traditional “To Whom it May Concern” to something perkier such as “Greetings.” In organizing your cover letter, the first paragraph tells the reader why you are writing, how you heard about the opening, and a general and extremely positive statement about how enthusiastic you are to help the company achieve its goals.

Your next paragraph in the cover letter format is your sales pitch, sometimes called your argument. Here you point to those characteristics and skills you possess that position you uniquely for the job. Don’t recap your entire resume. For example, if you are applying for an accounting position, don't mention your experience as a dance teacher on your cover letter. You can mention the skills you acquired, but only as they relate to accounting. Think of your resume as the overall menu and your cover letter as the catch of the day.

The final element in organizing your cover letter is the last paragraph, where you summarize your key points and tell the reader you will contact him in a given amount of time. This is important because it keeps the ball in your court.

When it comes to job seeking in this competitive job market, your voice and your professional image come from your cover letter format, organization, and writing skills. When you craft a professional, polished image in writing, you greatly enhance your chances of getting an interview as a result of your professional and polished image. Think of it in terms of "you are what you write!"

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)


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