How to Write a Cover Letter: A Step-By-Step Guide

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How to Write a Cover Letter: A Step-By-Step Guide
« on: May 16, 2012, 10:07:52 PM »
How to Write a Cover Letter: A Step-By-Step Guide

Three to five short paragraphs are all you need to create a dynamic cover letter. By making your cover letter as concise as possible, you demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Our guide takes you through each step of the letter-writing process.

Step 1 - The Salutation

•   Address the letter to a name: "Dear Sir" If you can't obtain the information by calling the company, use a title: "Dear Advertising Manager."
•   Make sure the company address on your letter matches the one on your envelope.

Step 2 - Introductory Paragraph

•   Open with a sentence that grabs the reader's attention. For example, explain how your skills uniquely qualify you for the job or that you are enthusiastic about the position or company.
•   State what position you are applying for and where you learned about the job.

Step 3 - Why I'm the Perfect Person for the Job Paragraph

•   Be specific without repeating everything that is on your resume.
•   Briefly explain important career achievements.
•   Define how you can contribute to the company's success. How do your skills make you stand out?

Step 4 - Additional Background and Skills Paragraph

•   Talk about any additional skills that you have (be brief!).
•   Show you have done research on the company by demonstrating how your background can help you meet current company objectives.
•   State your practical work experience (as it pertains to the job; no one needs to know your entire teenage work history).
•   Use bullet points to highlight your greatest strengths (if you have not already done so).

Step 5 - Executive Level Information Paragraph

•   If you are applying to a higher-level or executive position (VP, Manager, etc.), you might want to include a fourth paragraph that gives more details of your achievements and background.
•   For an entry-level job or non-executive position, you probably don't need another "background paragraph."

Step 6 - Closing Paragraph

•   Don't ignore a request for salary requirements-but be cautious. Give a broad range or write "negotiable."
•   Thank the employer for reviewing your materials.

Step 7 - Signature

•   Remember to sign your letter in black or blue ink! Other colors don't look professional.
•   List your phone number underneath your name. It makes it a lot easier to find.


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What Your Cover Letter Should Say About You
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2012, 10:10:41 PM »
What Your Cover Letter Should Say About You

If you've done your homework, perfected your writing skills and understand how to position yourself against other applicants, you've got nothing to fear. Here's what a cover letter should say about you.

 You Write Well

•   You'll make a good first impression by submitting a cover letter that is well-written and free of mistakes. Be sure to avoid typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. As your first contact with the employer, the cover letter really serves as a writing sample and proof (or not!) that you can organize your thoughts and write clearly.

 You Understand and Respect the Employer's Busy Schedule

•   You'll win points immediately if you keep your letter short, sweet and to the point. Open with a solid lead-in statement that grabs the reader's attention. Be sure to avoid extraneous personal information. No one needs to know that in your spare time you also knit, juggle oranges and have won several prestigious hula hoop championships.

 You Know How To Sell Yourself

•   With any sales pitch, the buyer wants to know "what's in it for me?" The same holds true for a cover letter. Use the cover letter to "sell" the employer on how they will benefit from your skills and experience, not how you will benefit working for them. Explain how your skills will help meet company objectives: "In my current job I developed an e-mail newsletter that increased donations by 40%. I am confident this experience would help me assist you in your ongoing fundraising efforts."

 You Are Qualified for the Position

•   Your cover letter should outline the ways you specifically fit the qualifications needed for the position. However, don't just repeat what is on your resume. Offer concrete details demonstrating why you are the perfect person for the position: "My solid marketing background and four years of supervisory experience make me an ideal candidate for your Marketing Manager position.

 You're Smart Enough Not to Send a Form Letter

•   How do you feel about the form letters you receive? Do they bore you? Offend you? Do you consider them junk mail? Human Resources professionals feel the same way. Customize every letter to a specific company and a specific position. Don't waste postage and paper on a pre-written form letter. They can be spotted a mile away.


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Tips For Creating Great Cover Letter Content
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2012, 10:12:51 PM »
Tips For Creating Great Cover Letter Content

 Begin with an attention getter.

•   State immediately why you are qualified and what makes you stand out from the other job applicants. Don't drone on with irrelevant facts or useless fluff in the first paragraph. Your reader might never get to the "good stuff" further down.

 Keep the tone professional.

•   Written correspondence requires more formality than everyday speech. Be courteous. Don't use abbreviations or slang terms: "I've worked in CTG.(abbreviation) five years ago and it would be really cool (slang) to work in Dhaka." Unless you're a professional comedian applying for a stand-up gig, don't joke or try to be funny. You want the employer to know you will take the job seriously.

 Be clear, not clever.

•   You may think you'll sound intelligent if you use large vocabulary words and lots of lengthy sentences…well, maybe. But you might also wind up appearing long-winded and bore your reader to tears. Stick with common words and crisp, concise sentences.

 Don't be afraid of action verbs.

•   Liven up your writing by using lots of action verbs to describe your career. Words like implemented, achieved, developed and created convey a sense of accomplishment.

 Customize each letter you write.

•   Whatever you do, don't use a form letter that sounds as if you mailed it to 100 employers. Always take the time to customize each letter for a particular position or company. If you send an obvious form letter, you'll look like someone who doesn't care what job you get.

 Use the active voice.

•   The active voice takes responsibility. The passive voice, however, passes the buck. For example, "I accomplished this" sounds more direct than "it was accomplished." Here is an example of a passive voice sentence: "Accounting services and financial advice were provided for several clients over a period of three years." Try the active voice instead: "As an accountant and financial advisor for the past three years, I've worked with diverse clientele." Whenever possible, choose the active voice over the passive voice. It will give your writing more punch.
 Use bullet points.

•   Highlight your greatest strengths and biggest career accomplishments by setting them off with bullet points in the second or third paragraphs. By using bullet points, you'll attract the reader's attention to your best achievements, rather than letting them get lost in the text.

 Embrace the power of the P.S.

•   Marketing studies have shown that most people will read the P.S. on a sales letter. Use this device to emphasize an important point: "P.S. I was recently honored at an annual corporate-wide meeting for perfect attendance." Hint: If the P.S. is handwritten, there's an even greater likelihood that it will be read.

 Check your spelling and grammar.

•   We can't stress this enough: Spelling and grammatical errors are not acceptable! Use reference books if you're not sure about something. Check all spelling carefully and don't rely on a computerized spell-check as your sole means of proofreading. Even computers make mistakes. Proofread your letter at least twice and ask a friend to take a look at it.


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Tips For Top Cover Letter Mistakes
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2012, 10:14:20 PM »
Tips For Top Cover Letter Mistakes

Make sure you don't commit any of the following errors. Some of these are obvious mistakes while others are easier to miss. But they all have one thing in common, you should avoid them at all costs!

•   Sending a form letter.
•   Attaching a Post-It Note to the resume in lieu of a cover letter.
•   Forgetting to sign your cover letter.
•   Including personal information that is not pertinent to the job you're seeking: "I haven't worked in eight months and I really need this job."
•   Including personal statistics more suitable to a dating service than a job: "Single, Catholic, male, who enjoys bungy jumping in my spare time."
•   Confessed shortcomings ("I know I don't have the experience you're looking for…").
•   Mismatching company information; you send the letter to ACME Corporation but it makes reference to ABC Insurance.
•   Food stains or grease marks on the paper or envelope.
•   Incorrect spelling of names.
•   Handwriting the cover letter instead of typing it. Unless you are requested to give handwriting cover letter.
•   Failing to enclose your resume.
•   Messy corrections.
•   Stapling instead clipping the cover letter to the resume, which causes undue hassle.
•   Ignoring a request for salary requirements when the ad specifically asks for it. You don't have to name an exact figure, but do include a range.


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Cover Letter Checklist
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2012, 10:15:36 PM »
Cover Letter Checklist has devised a quick checklist for you to review before sending out your next cover letter. Go ahead and ask yourself the following 10 questions to make sure you haven't forgotten anything important.

•   Have I proofread my letter at least twice for grammar, spelling and typographical errors?
•   Is the letter addressed to a specific person? Did I include their correct title and have I spelled the person's name correctly?
•   Have I signed the letter in blue or black ink?
•   Is my letter confined to one page and no more than three to five short paragraphs?
•   Have I highlighted my strengths in the second or third paragraph using bullet points?
•   Does the cover letter focus on the needs of the employer and not on my own requirements, such as money or flexible hours?
•   Do I have a copy of the cover letter for my own records?
•   If salary information was specifically asked for, have I included it? (No need to mention salary if it was not requested.)
•   Did I include my resume? Have I placed it behind the cover letter without staples and folded it neatly in thirds to fit into a standard size envelope?
•   And because it's the number one thing people forget to do: Have I signed my name using blue or black ink?