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July 24, 2014
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General Information Regarding Cover Letters

A letter should accompany resumes mailed in response to an advertisement or at an employer’s request.  This letter is called an ‘Information letter’, an ‘Introduction letter’, a ‘Letter of Intent’, or a ‘Cover letter’.  How you write your cover letter is as important as the message it delivers.  Your letter is an example of how well you communicate, and no employer wants to hire people who can’t do so effectively.

A cover letter does more than complement a resume - it plays a vital role in helping you achieve your goal…getting the job you desire.

In one page, your cover letter will:

[ Table layout and positioning for In one page, your cover letter will ]
Bullet 1 Cover Letter introduce you to your prospective employer,
Bullet 2 Cover Letter tell the employer what position you are applying for,
Bullet 3 Cover Letter prompt the employer to contact you to set up an interview
Bullet 4 Cover Letter most importantly, tell the employer why you are the best available candidate!


Tips for writing a winning Cover Letter

[ Table layout and positioning Tips for writing a winning Cover Letter ]
Bullet 1 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Always write to a specific individual rather than a personnel office. A generic salutation sends the message that you are not familiar with the company.  If necessary, make a phone call, visit the library or use the Internet to find out the name and title of the person who does the hiring. Whenever feasible, use networking sources to introduce yourself in the opening paragraph of your letter. Be sure you spell the individual's name correctly.

Bullet 2 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Show the employer that you've done your homework and have a genuine grasp of the organization's personnel needs and philosophy of business.  Be sincere in your praise, but don't over do it!

Bullet 3 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Write each cover letter separately, even if you use a common framework.  Personalize the letter with a sentence or two designed to reflect sincere interest in the specific employer.

Bullet 4 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Use natural language in simple, clear sentences.  Don't try to impress the reader with unusual vocabulary or complicated sentence structures.

Bullet 5 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Express your capabilities with confidence, but avoid exaggerating  your level of experience.  Two part time jobs at a department store do not constitute "extensive" retail management experience.

Bullet 6 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Let your personality and energy shine through your words.  Use a few vivid details about your background to capture the reader's interest.

Bullet 7 Writing a Winning Cover Letter It is important to mention activities, honors, and special skills.  These can show abilities that employers look for such as leadership, organization, critical thinking, teamwork, self-management, initiative, and influencing others.

Bullet 8 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Check and recheck your letter for correctness with regard to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  Be sure to have someone who is a good writer review your letter with you.  Typographical and grammatical errors say a lot about the kind of work you do.  Don’t depend entirely upon the spell-check function of your word processor/computer.  Keep a dictionary handy for proper word usage and you may want to consult a style manual for grammar questions.

Bullet 9 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Make sure the final letter is completely professional in appearance.  Use standard business letter format on stationery that matches your resume.  Do not use dot matrix printers or inferior typewriter ribbons.  Use only printers that produce neat, readable text with no stray marks or smudges.

Bullet 10 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Finish your letter with a strong closing which indicates the action  you desire.  Take the initiative by requesting an interview and/or stating your intention to call in a week or two.

Bullet 11 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Don’t forget to sign the letter or the employer may feel like you have sent a form letter.

Bullet 12 Writing a Winning Cover Letter Keep copies of everything you send, and follow up according to your stated intentions.   However, don't rely too heavily on cover letters to get your job.  Pursue other avenues of inquiry as well.


Cover Letter Layout Style

[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style Attention line ]
Bullet 1 Cover Letter Layout Style Attention line

When a letter is addressed to a company, an attention line is used to route the letter to a particular person. The attention line indicates that the letter concerns company business and that the writer prefers that the letter be handled by the individual named in the attention line. The attention line is typed at the left margin as the second item in the inside address. The word attention should not be abbreviated.

Example:

Anytown Labs
Attention: Jane Doe
138 Main Street
Anytown, KY  40000

[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style Body of letter ]
Bullet 2 Cover Letter Layout Style Body of letter

The body of the letter carries the message to the reader. The body is single-spaced, with double spacing between paragraphs. An effort should be made to have at least two paragraphs in a letter. Avoid having paragraphs that are too long or too short.

First paragraph should:

[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style First paragraph ]
Bullet 1 First paragraph State the reason why you are writing
Bullet 2 First paragraph Explain the type of work you are interested in and indicate how you learned about the employer and/or specific opening

Second paragraph should:

[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style Second paragraph ]
Bullet 1 Second paragraph Be specific about why you are interested in the position.
Bullet 2 Second paragraph Briefly summarize some of your strongest qualifications to do the work, remember to consider this from an employer's point of view.
Bullet 3 Second paragraph Show what you have to offer the employer.

Closing paragraph(s) should:

[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style Closing paragraph ]
Bullet 1 Closing paragraph Refer the reader to the resume (or application form) you are enclosing.
Bullet 2 Closing paragraph Declare your interest in an interview and offer to provide further information upon request.
Bullet 3 Closing paragraph Invite a response by asking a question and/or indicating what follow-up you have in mind.


[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style Complimentary Close ]
Bullet Complimentary Close Complimentary Close

Only the first letter of the first word is capitalized.

Example:

[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style Complimentary Close Examples ]
Bullet 1 Example Sincerely,
Bullet 2 Example Very truly yours,
Bullet 3 Example Sincerely yours,
Bullet 4 Example Cordially,
Bullet 5 Example Cordially yours,


[ Table layout and positioning for Cover Letter Layout Style Signature Lines ]
Bullet Signature Lines Signature Lines

The signature lines refer to the line naming the letter originator (writer).

Example:

Jane L Doe

Jane L. Doe


Example:

Very truly yours,

Jane L Doe

Jane L. Doe

Click here for examples of coverletters.