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INSIDER JOB ADVICE

Cover Letters – Inside Information, Examples, Q&A

Cover Letter - Inside Information

A cover letter should address the needs of the employer, display enthusiasm and excitement, and describe how the skills, abilities, and experience outlined in your resume are a perfect match for the requirements of the position. Use your cover letter to show how your experience, knowledge of the company, and positive attitude will enable you to excel in this job.

 

Your cover letter is also an example of your work. It should be concisely written, have a professional appearance, and be free of grammatical and spelling errors. Use your cover letter to create a positive impression that, along with your resume, will convince your prospective employer to invite you in for an interview. When sending a resume to a prospective employer, you should always include a cover letter.

 

What Should a Cover Letter Include?

 

A cover letter should accomplish these three basic objectives as described below:

 

1.  Introduce yourself and express your interest in the job.

2.  Describe your qualifications and how they will benefit the company.

3.  Request an interview and suggest follow-up.

 

Introduce Yourself and Express Interest

In your initial paragraph, you want to convey how you heard about the position. If someone recommended you apply for the position, be sure to mention that person’s name in the beginning of your letter. A personal referral creates a connection between you and the hiring manager and represents a vote of confidence from someone the employer may trust. You also want to use this introductory paragraph to identify the position you are applying for and the reasons you are interested in the job.

 

Describe Your Qualifications

In the body of your cover letter, you want to translate how your skills and experience meet the requirements of the position. One powerful method for accomplishing this is to list each of the requirements as outlined in the job description and then, next to the requirement, describe the skills, abilities, and experience you possess that demonstrate your ability to meet these requirements. If you have researched the company and understand their current and future needs, then describe how your skills, abilities, and experience will help the company achieve their short and long-term goals.

 

Request an Interview

In the concluding paragraph of your letter, you want to summarize your qualifications and why you are a strong candidate for the position, restate your interest and excitement in the job, and request an interview. Also state when and how you will follow up. Usually, this will be a phone call to confirm that the hiring manager has received your resume.

 

Successful Cover Letter Professional Advice

 

Here is some professional advice for writing a successful cover letter:

 

·        Address your letter to the hiring manager responsible for filling the position.

·        If you do not know who is responsible, research the company and find out.

·        Keep your letter to one page.

·        Tailor each cover letter to the position you are applying for.

·        Describe what you can bring to the company, not what you are expecting from them.

·        Use your research to demonstrate you know something about their company, their needs, and how you can address them.

·        Write in a professional, energetic, and personal tone.

·        Mention that you have included a resume with your letter.

·        Check and recheck for spelling and grammatical errors.

 

Main Types of Cover Letters

 

Every cover letter should express your interest in the position, provide a description of your qualifications, and request an interview. Below are descriptions of different cover letters you may use throughout your job search:

 

Cover Letters

Use this letter to inquire if a certain type of position is available within the company. Highlight the key skills, abilities, and accomplishments listed in your resume and describe how this experience qualifies you for the type of position you are seeking. You would direct this letter to the company’s head of human resources or to the hiring manager for the department you wish to work for.

 

Broadcast Letters

Use this letter to apply for a variety of positions with one or several companies. Describe in detail your skills, abilities, and experience and demonstrate how they add value to the company. Because this letter provides additional details about your experience normally included in a resume, you may not need to include your resume with this letter. Broadcast letters usually target a specific type of position, or positions that use your specific set of skills and abilities. You would direct this letter to the company’s head of human resources or to the head of the department in which you wish to work.

 

Advertisement Reply Letters

Use this letter to respond to specific advertisements placed in newspapers, periodicals, journals, and the Internet. Describe where you learned about the position, and highlight the key skills, abilities, and accomplishments in your resume and how this experience qualifies you for the position. You would direct this letter to the person in charge of hiring for the listed position.

 

Referral Letters

Use this letter when someone has personally referred you for a position or company. In a referral letter, be sure to include the name of the person who has referred you in the first paragraph of the letter. Highlight the key skills, abilities, and accomplishments in your resume and describe how this experience qualifies you for the position.

 

Relocation Letters

Use this letter when you are planning to relocate to another area. Announce that you are moving to the area on a specific date and describe the type of position you are seeking. Highlight the key skills, abilities, and accomplishments listed in your resume and describe how this experience qualifies you for the position you are seeking. Also include a suggestion for an initial phone interview, and include information on when you will be in the area and available for a face-to-face interview.

 

Fax Cover Sheet Letters

Always use a cover sheet when faxing your resume to a prospective employer. In the content area of the fax cover sheet, highlight your key skills, abilities and accomplishments, describe how this experience qualifies you for the position, and ask for the interview. You would direct this letter to the hiring manager in charge of hiring for the position you are applying for.

 

E-mail Cover Letters

When sending a resume by e-mail, you may use the body of the e-mail message to highlight the key skills, abilities, and accomplishments in your resume, describe how this experience qualifies you for the position, and ask for the interview.

 

Other Possible Letters in Your Job Search

 

Letters for Staffing Firms, Headhunters, or Recruiters

These letters should include information about the type of organization you want to work for and the type of work you are interested in. Highlight the key skills, abilities and accomplishments listed in your resume and describe how this experience qualifies you for the type of position you are seeking. This letter could be targeted to a specific type of position, or to any position that uses your specific set of skills and abilities. You would direct this letter to the head of the staffing firm or the individual recruiter with whom you will be working.

 

Networking Letters

Use this letter to contact people in your network that can provide leads for possible job openings. A networking letter can be sent to people you know, or people to whom you have been referred. Describe the type of job you are looking for and what assistance you hope the person can provide. Highlight the key skills, abilities and accomplishments listed in your resume and describe how this experience qualifies you for the type of position you are seeking. End the letter by thanking them for their time and effort.

 

Letters for after the Interview

 

Thank You Letters

Use this letter to express appreciation for interviews, job leads, or any other help you have received during your job search. When addressing these letters to prospective employers, be sure to include information on when you will contact them next and what additional information you can provide. When writing to someone you have received help from, be sure to update them on the progress of your job search and describe how you followed through on suggestions or recommendations they made.

 

Follow-up Letters

Use this letter after the interview to follow up and show your continued interest in a position. Be sure to thank employers for their time and restate your interest in the job. Indicate when you will contact them next and ask if there is any additional information you can provide.

 

Offer Acceptance Letters

You are accepting a job offer. Congratulations! This letter expresses your gratitude for the offer and acceptance of the position. Use this letter to confirm your understanding of the requirements of the position and the overall compensation package and acknowledge the date you will start.

 

Offer Rejection Letters

Use this letter to express your appreciation for the job offer and tactfully decline at this time. Describe how you enjoyed your interview and how you were impressed with the quality of the company and people you met. Politely explain your specific reasons for not accepting the offer and thank them for the time they spent on your interview. Do not use an Offer Rejection Letter to negotiate a better offer. This should be done in person or over the telephone.

 

Letters for your Current Employer

 

Seeking a Promotion

This letter should outline your skills, abilities, experience, and achievements and demonstrate how they have benefited the company and why they qualify you for a promotion. Describe the responsibilities of the new position and specify how your experience will enable you to fulfill these responsibilities.

 

Resignation Letters

Use this letter to resign from your current position. Describe what you enjoyed about working with the management and staff of the company and wish them luck and success in the future. Always leave a company on a positive note so that you can use the management and staff as networking contacts in the future.

Cover Letter - Tips

 

Cover letters are your first sales pitch to a potential employer. Remember that employers receive hundreds of resumes and cover letters from people who are applying for the job you want. Your goal is to stand out from the other candidates. A good cover letter introduces you to the employer and explains why you are the best candidate applying for the job. The following are guidelines to help you create a cover letter that stands out from the crowd.

 

1. Proofread your letter for errors and readability.

 

A professional cover letter contains no spelling, typing, or grammatical errors. Job applicants are frequently disqualified because of such mistakes.

 

2. Address your letter to the person who can hire you.

 

Call the company and find out the name and title of the person to whom the letter should be addressed, usually a hiring manager or department head. It shows initiative, resourcefulness, and will impress the reader that you figured out a way to address him or her personally.

 

3. Send your letter to an individual, not a company.

 

Use his or her name and title, when available. Do not use a title such as Mr. or Ms. unless you are certain of gender. Your goal is to get your letter to the person who is actually making the hiring decision. Use “Human Resource Manager” or “Personnel Director” only when you cannot find a name.

 

4. Write in your own words.

 

Make sure that your letter sounds personalized. Choose a writing style that matches your personality. Employers are looking for knowledge, enthusiasm, focus, drive, dedication, and honesty. Incorporate as many of these characteristics in your cover letter and writing style as possible.

 

5. Use proper grammar and spelling. 

 

Because it is so critical to be as accurate and professional as possible with your cover letter, don’t hesitate to utilize the variety of reference tools that are available to help you with grammar, spelling, and letter writing, including your dictionary and thesaurus.

 

6. Show you know something about the company and the industry.

 

This is where your research comes in. Don’t go overboard, just make it clear that you didn’t pick this company out of the phone book. You know who they are, what they do, and why you would like to work for them.

 

7. Use terms and phrases that are meaningful to the employer.

 

Customize your letter as much as possible to the needs of the employer. Think about the company, their customers, and the work you see yourself doing for them. Use industry jargon and career-specific keywords where appropriate.

 

8. Be sure to include a return address and phone number.

 

Your return address includes your street address, city, state, zip code, telephone number with area code, and e-mail. Put this information at the top of your cover letter. Always include the best time to contact you.

 

9. Adapt a formal tone to your letter to promote yourself as a professional.

 

Your letter should be close to a business proposal instead of a plea for an interview. What do you offer that is of value? What objectives can you help them achieve?

 

10. Emphasize the benefits to hiring you.

 

What can you do for the organization that will create interest and arouse a desire for an interview? Don’t just explain why you are qualified, illustrate why hiring you will have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

 

11. Sound confident.

 

If you meet all the stated requirements for the job, spell this out in your letter. Accentuate the good match between your skills and their needs. Doing so will emphasize your viability as a candidate.

 

12. Provide readers with an insight into your past success.

 

Make your accomplishments, skills, and background the subjects of your sentences, and emphasize how these abilities can contribute to the organization. Use concrete, specific language so that the reader gets a good sense of who you are and what you have done.

 

13. Draft your letter in a way that demonstrates your fit within the organization.

 

Use your cover letter to describe your skills, abilities, personality, and experience and how these qualities will benefit the organization. Demonstrate how your experience matches the requirements of the position.

 

14. Structure your letter in an organized, deliberate manner.

Introduce yourself and why you want the job in the first paragraph, demonstrate your qualifications in the second paragraph, and ask for the interview in the third.

 

15. Visually call attention to your qualifications!

Use underlining, bolding, indents, or bullets to highlight key information contained in your cover letter, but use these formatting techniques sparingly and consistently. If you emphasize too many qualifications, your cover letter will become hard to read.

 

16. Keep it short.

Keep your letter simple, clean, short, direct, and to the point. Use no more than five to seven lines per paragraph. Vary the length of each sentence. Sentences shouldn’t be very long, but you also don’t want a staccato stream of very short sentences. One page is the maximum for letters.

 

17. Demonstrate your skills.

 

For any position, there are two types of skills: core skills that any serious applicant will be expected to have, and a much broader range of skills that would be useful to the employer but go beyond the scope of the minimum requirements. Your core skills get you in the door; your other skills make you stand out from the competition.

 

18. Send original letters to each employer.

 

Sending a personalized letter to each hiring manager will always achieve better results than mass-produced or mail-merged letters. Whenever possible, tailor your letter to the specific needs of each employer.

 

19. Direct the reader to specific information in your resume.

 

Your cover letter should be vibrant and bursting with energy. It should mention the highlights of your resume and tease the reader into wanting to see more. Consider including a question or statement about you that would entice the reader to read your resume, such as “The time-saving techniques I developed have saved my current company 1.3 million dollars over the last 3 years. Let me demonstrate how I can save money for your company.”

 

20. Include a copy of your resume.

 

Remember that the main purpose of a cover letter is to get your resume into the hands of the employer and request an interview. Don’t forget to enclose a copy of your resume.

 

21. Open with an attention grabber that generates interest immediately.

 

There are many ways to start your letter. Your opening statement should get to the point quickly, but engage your reader’s attention. If your first sentences demonstrate how you can contribute to the organization, you have a strong opening.

 

22. Do not enclose a photo.

 

Unless you are seeking employment in modeling, acting, or other performance industries, it is inappropriate to send a photograph with your cover letter. An employer will have a chance to see you in person, should you reach the interview stage. Until then, a photo will not help you get in the door.

 

23. Do not use all capitalized letters.

 

Some employers may consider using ALL CAPS unprofessional. Use bold, italics, or underlining instead to highlight information in your cover letter. Additionally, do not justify the right margins. The contents and organization of your letter are the most important elements, but presentation has an effect too. Be sure your letter has a professional appearance.

 

24. Finish your letter with a request.

 

The primary goal of your cover letter is to introduce yourself, demonstrate your qualifications, and request an interview. Be sure and ask for the interview at the end of your cover letter and then let the employer know when and how you will follow up.

 

25. Send your resume and cover letter unfolded.

 

Sending your resume and cover letter unfolded in a full-sized, flat envelope may give you an edge on the competition. Your resume will have a neater, more professional appearance, and your resume will be easier to scan into a database.

Cover Letter - Questions & Answers

Q: What is the purpose of a cover letter?

 

Use a cover letter to introduce yourself to a potential employer, highlight your experience, refer prospective employers to your attached resume, and ask for an interview.

 

Q: Should my cover letter repeat what is in my resume?

 

If you want to have a cover letter that adds value to your resume instead of just repeating the information, then try some of the following suggestions:

 

·        Reframe material that’s on the resume in terms which are more familiar to the new, prospective employer. For example, if your resume focuses on jobs and job titles, but your connection to the new employer is through a common industry, reframe the information in your cover letter about your experience in terms of the industry.

·        There may be items on your resume, which are not emphasized, but are of particular importance to a new employer. You can highlight these items in the cover letter instead.

·        There may be other information which you felt didn’t really belong on the resume, but potentially has importance to a new employer. This type of information belongs in your cover letter.

·        You certainly want to have a statement about your motivation. Why do you want to work for that particular employer? What interests you about that particular job? Providing answers to these and other questions will interest an employer in reading your cover letter.

·        Reassure the hiring manager by addressing concerns about potential problem areas in your resume such as career changes or inconsistencies in your work history.

 

Q: Should I explain career gaps or career changes in my cover letter?

 

You want to use your cover letter to address any obvious credibility or reliability concerns that the resume might present. For example, if you’ve been out of work for a period of time, or you’re changing careers, you want to address gaps in your work history by explaining your reasons in positive terms. Describe how you used this time to achieve important personal goals or to gain training and education. For changes in career, explain why you are changing careers and describe the interesting challenges and opportunities you see in your new career. Focus on the positive aspects of your transition and your commitment to your new career. Also, list the transferable skills and abilities you have that will allow you to excel in your new career.

 

Q: Should tell employers I am ready to do anything?

 

Some people think that if they let an employer know that they are willing to do anything, they’re more likely to land the job. Actually, it works the other way around. Desperation will not help you get a job, being focused on a particular job and demonstrating why you’re the best candidate will.

 

Q: Should I include salary information?

 

Do not include your salary history or salary requirements in your cover letter. Instead, discuss these items at the interview or over the telephone. If specifically asked for salary information, you may want to include a statement that you are excited about the position and are confident that you and the hiring manager can agree on a fair and competitive salary, but that you would prefer to discuss salary at the interview.

 

Q: Should I include a cover letter when e-mailing my resume?

 

Instead of e-mailing a separate cover letter with your resume, you may include the text of your cover letter in the body of the e-mail. Your resume can be added to the body of the e-mail or included as an attachment.

 

Q: Should I include a cover letter when applying for an internal job?

 

Always include a cover letter, even when applying for internal positions. List your manager and department, describe why you are interested in the position, and then use your key skills, abilities and experience to demonstrate your qualifications for the position. Be sure to notify your manager that you are seeking another position within the company, try to gain support for your career change or advancement, and ask for a positive reference.

 

Q: Should I hand write my cover letter?

 

A cover letter should always be typed or printed. However, it is acceptable, and even preferable, to send a handwritten Thank You letter following the interview.

 

Q: If I am relocating, what address should I include on my Relocation letter?

 

When relocating, consider setting up a post office box or using a friend’s address in your new location. If you cannot do this, use your current address, but provide the date you will be finished relocating, and explain that you will call with your new address as soon as possible. This gives you an opportunity to follow up when you arrive at your new destination.

 

Q: What kind of letter format should I use?

 

Any of the following three formats for your letters are acceptable in a job search:

 

Block — The entire letter will appear left justified.


Modified Block — Your address at the top of the letter and the closing at the end of the letter will appear indented, with the main body of the letter remaining left justified.


Indented — The first line of all paragraphs will begin with a five-space indent. Also, your address and the closing will be indented.

Insider Tip: For professional results, you can match your letters to your resumes by pasting a letter into a new, blank resume document. Follow these steps: 1) Start a New Resume from the Main Menu 2) Choose any resume type 3) Add an Other section to your resume 4) Remove all other sections of your resume and delete the section title for the new, Other section 5) Paste your letter into the text field of the Other section. You will now have a letter that uses the Headers which match your resumes.

 

Q: How can I ensure the results of my letter?

 

To increase the chances that your letter will achieve the desired effect, have at least one colleague, family member, business associate, friend, or recruiter review your letter and provide suggestions and feedback. Have them read your letter aloud and rewrite any awkwardly worded phrases.