Guidelines for a Great Cover Letter

John Krautzel
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A cover letter is an essential tool to show your personality and professionalism. Focus your job search on crafting a letter that prompts the interest of a hiring manager with clear and concise examples of your ability to mesh with the company culture and impact the company's bottom line.

A common misconception among job seekers is that the cover letter is a waste of time or a reiteration of the resume. Realistically, an introductory letter is often what sets you apart from other job candidates. Use this opportunity to expand upon your experience, skills and accomplishments while offering the employer insight into your professional brand.

Pay close attention to the structure of the letter to ensure it's formal, including a heading that features your name, address, phone number and email address. Be sure to date the letter and address it to a specific member of the hiring team to personalize your inquiry, suggests the University of Virginia's Career Center.

Begin the cover letter with an engaging opening statement. Your job search depends on showing potential employers what makes you more interesting or qualified than other candidates, so focus on this tidbit right away to ensure your letter keeps the attention of the company representative reading it. Make sure to explore why you want to work for the company within this two- to three-sentence introduction.

The body of a the letter should be approximately one to two paragraphs long and focus on your experience and skills relevant to the position. Use the job description as a guide when writing your cover letter. Outline the desired or required skills and experience you possess, and provide specific examples that show your proficiency in various computer programs or equipment used within the industry.

Show that you go above and beyond as an employee by describing on-the-job successes. Job seekers should focus on productive work completed on deadline, with a team or processes and procedures created that helped improve productivity, customer service or profits. Relate your successes to the industry and detail how the company can benefit from your knowledge, experience and skills.

The cover letter is not about you. It is more about what you can do for the company. Detail what impresses you about the company's accomplishments, products and services and outline how your experience can continue this record of success. Focus your research on the company's culture, too. Outline what you admire about how its employees are encouraged to succeed and mention that you find yourself a perfect fit for the team.

Job seekers who dismiss the importance of a cover letter put themselves at a disadvantage in the job market. Use this essential tool to capture the interest of hiring managers and prompt them to see you as the ideal candidate.

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