What Should You Include in Your Cover Letter?

John Krautzel
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You've probably heard the saying about not getting a second chance to make a great first impression. For job seekers, the cover letter is your one chance to impress a recruiter and move forward in the hiring process. Your cover letter must include enough information to convince a recruiter to interview you, but not so much information that it becomes difficult for a recruiter to find out about your skills or work experience. If you have been wondering what to include in a cover letter, here are some tips for writing letters that get noticed.

If someone within the company encouraged you to apply for a position, the introduction of your cover letter is a good place to mention the person's name. You should also use the introduction to provide a brief summary of your career. In no more than two sentences, talk about your work experience and explain how your background would be a good fit for the company. If you learned about the job via an advertisement, mention the source of the ad in your opening. Recruiters use this information to make decisions about ad placement and spending.

Don't be tempted to rehash the content of your resume in your cover letter. The body of the letter should include specific examples to back up your claims. If your resume says you have experience managing a department's finances, your cover letter should discuss how you cut department costs by 20 percent or doubled revenues from one year to the next. Instead of listing previous job titles and employers, use your cover letter to tell a story. This works especially well in creative fields such as advertising, publishing, and marketing. A recruiter might not read more than the opening of a boring letter, but most people will read a cover letter in its entirety if it tells an interesting story.

Some people make the mistake of including references in their cover letters. Don't do this unless the job advertisement instructs you to. Many employers now have policies against providing references for former employees, so the information might not do anything to help you get the job. Instead of including references, let the recruiter know you will follow up on your application. Give a specific date and time for following up, such as "I will call you on the afternoon of March 18 to follow up on my application." In your closing, thank the recruiter for taking the time to read your cover letter and resume.

Now that you know what to include in a cover letter, you won't have to worry about making a big mistake when applying for a job. Your letter should include an introduction, body, and conclusion. Give specific examples of how you used your skills to help a former employer cut costs, increase profits, or achieve a business goal. Let the recruiter know you plan to follow up in a week or two. Including the right information in your cover letter will improve your chances of getting the job you really want.


(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)


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