Writing the Perfect Cover Letter

Nancy Anderson
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Your cover letter serves as an introduction of your abilities to a potential employer. It's often the first thing a hiring manager sees when your file makes it past the applicant tracking system. Therefore, you should make every word of your letter count.

Send It Through Email

The easiest way to compose a cover letter is through email. This email contains an attached resume as prescribed by the job description. An email gives you a chance to write to a specific person within the recruiting company or HR department responsible for hiring the position.

Find this person through LinkedIn or the company's website. If you cannot find the HR manager that way, don't be afraid to call and ask the appropriate staffer. This adds a personal touch that tailors your message to the company. Address the salutation to the person by last name to start the letter with a professional attitude.

Craft an Eye-Catching Subject Line

Hiring managers who see boring or mundane subject lines may send those emails to the trash folder right away. Your subject line should mention the most relevant experience you have so someone clicks on the email for more details.

Create a Personal Story

Tell a story that delves into why you want the job in the first place. This part of the letter is unique to you and no one else. Perhaps you want to sell this company's brand because you had a personal connection to it as a kid. Maybe you're passionate about a certain cause because of a situation involving a close friend or family member. A cover letter lets you tell HR any details not found in a resume or application. Your personal story adds personality to the professional tone of the letter.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Your cover letter should be short. Prescribed lengths vary from no more than four sentences to around 12 sentences separated into three to four paragraphs. Break up the text into simple lines with plenty of white space.

Add Value

The employer wants to get a good return after investing money in your skills. A perfect cover letter takes the most essential requirements of the job and relates how you fulfill those aspects of the position. However, this doesn't mean reiterating what's already in your resume. Say how you meet the important aspects of the qualifications by telling a story about how your experiences prepared you for this job.

Sign Off

Sign off your letter with a professional signature that includes your name and contact information and a LinkedIn profile page URL. Use a formal closing such as "Regards," "Cordially" or "Sincerely."

Your cover letter is an introduction, but it's also a hook to get someone to look into your background further. An HR manager examines your resume and references in more detail and contacts you about the next step if you meet the employer's initial standards.


Photo courtesy of Kiran Foster at Flickr.com

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