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Résumés & Cover Letters

Tips for Writing Cover Letters

If you're going to get the great job you want, you need to write a great cover letter. Think of a cover letter as an introduction: a piece of paper that conveys a smile, a confident hello, and a nice, firm handshake. Click here to see a Sample Cover Letter.

The cover letter is the first thing a potential employer sees and it can make a powerful impression. The following are some tips for creating a cover letter that is professional and gets the attention you want.

Keep It Short
Make It Look Professional
Explain Why You Are Writing
Introduce Yourself
Sell Yourself
Provide All Requested Information
Ask For An Interview
Check For Errors

Keep It Short
Your cover letter should be one page, no more.

Make It Look Professional
These days, you need to type your letter on a computer and print it on a laser printer. Don't use an inkjet printer unless it produces extremely crisp type. Use white or buff-colored paper; anything else will draw the wrong kind of attention. Type your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address at the top of the page.

Explain Why You Are Writing
Start your letter with one sentence describing where you heard of the opening. "Joan Wright suggested I contact you regarding a position in your marketing department" Or, "I am writing to apply for the position you advertised in the Sun City Journal."

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Introduce Yourself
Give a short description of your professional abilities and background. Refer to your attached résumé: "As you will see in the attached résumé, I am an experienced editor with a background in newspapers, magazines, and textbooks." Then highlight one or two specific accomplishments.

Sell Yourself
Your cover letter should leave the reader thinking, "This person is exactly what we're looking for." Focus on what you can do for the company. Relate your skills to the skills and responsibilities mentioned in the job listing. If the ad mentions solving problems, relate a problem you solved at school or work. If the ad mentions specific skills or knowledge required, mention your mastery of these in your letter. (Also be sure these skills are included on your résumé.)

Provide All Requested Information
If the help wanted ad asked for "salary requirements" or "salary history," include this information in your cover letter. However, you don't have to give specific numbers. It's okay to say, "My wage is in the range of $10 per hour." If the employer doesn't ask for salary information, don't offer any.

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Ask for an Interview
You've sold yourself, now wrap it up. Be confident, but not pushy. "If you agree that I would be an asset to your company, please call me at [insert your phone number]. I am available for an interview at your convenience." Finally, thank the person. "Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon." Always close with a "Sincerely," followed by your full name and signature.

Check for Errors
Read and re-read your letter to make sure each sentence is correctly worded and there are no errors of spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Don't rely on your computer's spell checker or grammar checker. A spell check won't detect if you typed "tot he" instead of "to the." It's a good idea to have someone else read your letter, too. They might notice an error you overlooked.

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