It is common knowledge that a professional, well-constructed resume is one of the most important factors in a successful job search. A piece of the puzzle that many job seekers tend to overlook is the cover letter. When constructing your cover letter, think of it as a written interview, and be sure that you include key pieces of information while excluding others.
Generic information and wording should not be included in a cover letter. Create a cover letter that is specific to the job for which you are applying; never send a mass mailing of cover letters with your resumes. Address the specific position, and explain to the reader why you deserve an interview for the job. Never begin a cover letter with "To Whom it May Concern." Always do your research to find out the name of the company's hiring manager, and address the letter to this person directly. Start by checking the company's Web site, and if necessary, call the company and inquire about who is in charge of the hiring process.
While a cover letter is the perfect place to describe yourself and your positive attributes, it is not the appropriate medium for conveying detailed personal information about yourself. Avoid referring to your age, gender, race, religion or marital status within your cover letter. These characteristics should have no bearing on the position in which you are interested, and including this information may even hurt your chances. In addition, avoid mentioning irrelevant details, such as hobbies or personal achievements.
A cover letter should be professional, so avoid the desire to include humorous language. Such language may cause you to appear as less credible in the eyes of the hiring manager, and you run the risk of offending the reader. Additionally, do not include language that makes you appear to be desperate. Be direct about salary requirements, and do not use the word "negotiable," as it creates the impression that you lack authority. Make no mention of your weaknesses within the cover letter; highlight your strengths and expertise to prove that your are the ideal candidate.
CareerBuilder.com advises that you should avoid passive language in your cover letter. When writing the final paragraph of your cover letter, do not close with "I look forward to hearing from you." Include a call to action, such as "I will contact you next week to discuss a time to meet," and follow through on this promise.
When constructing your cover letter, be sure to dedicate as much time to it as you did to your resume. Making sure that your cover letter is unique and demonstrates your personality ensures that you stand apart from other candidates during your job search. Knowing the important elements to include in your cover letter is just as important as knowing what elements should not be included.
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