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What Is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is designed to capture your reader’s attention and explain why you are the perfect candidate for the specific job you are applying for. An effective cover letter goes beyond summarizing your resumé; a good cover letter seeks to make a positive first impression and convince the hiring manager that you are the right person to handle the particular job requirements of the open position.
6 Things to Include in a Cover Letter
Though every cover letter should differ depending on the type of job you’re applying for, there are some standard elements that are found in all cover letters:
- Your contact information: At the top of the document, you should include your full name, address, phone number, and email address. If you’re submitting via email or through the company website, this information can go underneath the body of your cover letter in the signature section.
- Name of the hiring manager: A great cover letter begins with the hiring manager’s name, job title, company name, and company address. This usually appears in the top left corner before the opening paragraph.
- Salutation: The opening line of your cover letter should include a greeting to the person reading. “Dear Mr.” or “Dear Ms.” followed by their last name is usually acceptable. If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, “Dear Hiring Manager” is commonly used as well. Avoid overly formal greetings in your cover letter, like “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
- Qualifications: The body of your cover letter should explain who you are, any prior experience relevant to the job application, and why you’re uniquely qualified for the open position. Job seekers should be as specific as possible, referencing the precise requirements listed in the job posting.
- Closing: Following your closing paragraph, you should conclude your cover with a proper closing that strikes the right tone. Common closings include “Regards,” “Best,” or “Sincerely.”
- Signature: If you’re sending a hard copy of your cover letter, you should include your signature below your closing. If you’re submitting an email, it’s appropriate to include an electronic signature along with your contact information.
4 Tips for Writing a Good Cover Letter
A great cover letter can be the difference between landing a job interview and your resumé never even seeing the light of day. Here are some simple steps to help you write the perfect cover letter:
- Customize your cover letter for each job. Over the course of a typical new job search, you’ll likely submit a number of cover letters to various job openings. It’s tempting to use a standard cover letter template, change the name of the company, and call it a day. However, hiring managers want to know that you’re excited about their specific company and open position, so you should write a custom cover letter for each new position you’re applying for. Include specific references to the company or job description to prove that you haven’t just copied and pasted from a sample cover letter.
- Don’t be afraid to reference templates. Though you should always change the content of your cover letter to fit the specific job and company you’re applying for, it’s okay to reference a cover letter example as an outline. There are plenty of good cover letter samples on the Internet that you can use as a basis for your own cover letter format. As you’re scanning through different types of cover letters, consider the job you’re applying for. A formal position at a traditional company may respond better to a standard, no-frills cover letter template, while a more modern business may be open to a more novel, unconventional format.
- Keep it brief. Assume that the hiring manager is reading hundreds of cover letters, so make your point as concisely as possible. Only include personal information if it’s relevant to the job at hand. Cover letters should be no longer than one page, but if you can showcase your skills and relevant experience in just a few paragraphs, that will increase the likelihood of a potential recruiter or human resources manager reading the entire letter.
- Proofread. If a recruiter sees a cover letter that’s littered with typos, errors, and egregious formatting, they probably won’t even make it past the first paragraph. Be sure to double-check your cover letter for simple grammar and spelling errors. Ask a friend or family member to review your application letter as well. Read your cover letter from the bottom up, starting with the third paragraph and working your way backward through the second paragraph until you reach the first sentence, looking for any egregious mistakes. Sloppy and careless cover letter mistakes won’t make a good impression on the hiring manager, so you want to make sure your cover letter is free of errors.
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