Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Write an Effective Cover Letter

Good cover letters are more than perfect grammar and spelling. They’re written sales pitches. To increase the odds of making your sale, you need to write your letter so it includes the following:

  • an introduction that establishes your interest;
  • a paragraph or two that sums up your strengths;
  • a paragraph that highlights your experience and education; and
  • a sentence or two that establishes follow-up action.

Making a Connection

A good introduction will interest the employer and ensure that the rest of your letter will be read. The most effective way of getting yourself noticed is to personalize your letter. Potential employers can spot a mass-mailed cover letter before reading the second sentence, so include key facts about the company or the opportunity. Better yet, if you’ve already met someone from the company, be sure to mention it. The sentence, “Nick Trist, your Senior Technical Recruiter, told me that you’re looking for a web designer. My expertise and experience can certainly be of help.”, shows an employer that you’ve spent time and energy finding out about the firm and its open positions. Personal connections are one of the best ways to capture an employer’s interest.

What Do You Do Well?

The next part of your cover letter should explain why you’ll be a valuable asset to the employer. What do you have that they want? You have a record of accomplishments, but don’t just list them—be selective in your choices. You need to persuade the employer that contributions you’ve made elsewhere demonstrate your ability to make similar contributions at his company.One mistake of many job seekers is to select the accomplishments they’re most proud of. You may think that through-hiking the Appalachian Trail validated your existence, but most employers won’t care. Be sure to remember that you’re trying to tailor your letter to the exact needs of an employer, who will care much more about your successful management of a difficult project. Just as successful sales people focus on their customers’ needs, successful job hunters focus on what different employers want.

Your Background

There’s no need to overload this section with a detailed list of jobs, degrees, and outside interests. Instead, briefly summarize what’s most relevant in your background. You’ll have plenty of space on your resume to provide details.

I’ll Be Back

The final paragraph of your cover letter should encourage the employer to contact you and indicate that you’ll be following up. Include your personal phone number and the hours of the day that are best for reaching you and say that you’ll call on a certain date to determine if there’s any interest.

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