Tips for Writing Strong Cover Letters

2 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Cover Letters

Effective cover letters can accomplish a number of getting-you-noticed purposes in a job search. Follow proven tips for writing strong cover letters that employers actually read. You can inspire intrigue by creatively using the right words and sending the right facts.

Here are some tips for writing cover letters that sell:

  • Customize and use names: The era of the generic cover letter is gone. Customize each cover letter you send — not only in content, but addressed to the specific hiring manager (if you can find the name by calling the company or through research) instead of “Dear Sir/Madam.”

  • Speak the right language: Consider the recipient of your information. If the organization is conservative and traditional, keep the presentation of your information conservative and traditional. By contrast, when the targeted organization is creative and entrepreneurial, the addition of a splash of gifted words or a flourish in design tempts the doorkeeper to let you in.

  • State the reason you’re writing: Always tell the reader why you’re writing, but be tactical about it. To reply to an advertised job, name the position title and where you saw the ad, but don’t squander valuable real estate doing so in the opening paragraph. Instead, accomplish the same thing by positioning the information in the subject line “regarding” space.

  • Explain why you’re a top candidate: Your basic message should be: “Here are examples of work I’ve done and accomplishments I’ve achieved that match what you’re looking for.” Because you research the company online, you’re able to show why your skills and competencies are right for the job and can benefit the company. You explain any gaps in a positive way.

    Accomplishments are job-offer magnets. Employers hire for results, not responsibilities. And they like numbers — percentages, dollar amounts, or other key measures wherever possible to quantify achievements and accomplishments.

  • Tell them why you admire them: You needn’t gush with insincere praise when explaining why you’d like to work for a company, but intelligent compliments are a staple of effective cover letters. You won’t be believable unless you get a line on the company before writing your letter. Why bother? Because your appreciation of the workplace where he or she toils makes the hiring manager feel important.

  • Declare what’s next: In closing your letter, reprise your enthusiasm, confirm your desire for an interview, and state what the next step will be. Preferably, you use an action close, telling the recipient that you will follow up and when that will happen. In some instances, you will have to wait for them to contact you.

  • Read and reread: Go beyond using your computer’s spell checker tool to review your cover letters for typos and grammatical errors. Ask a friend or mentor to look over your letters as a backstop. Your words are going out into the hiring world as your only representative. If they don’t go out in first-rate order, you never get to show off your stuff in person.

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