Preparing the Perfect Cover Letter

A cover letter is always used to introduce resumes forwarded in response to employment classified ads or other posted job listings (including those on the Internet). Gain a competitive edge by following the four steps below to building a cover letter:

Paragraph #1: How you learned about the job?

First things first. For the most part, a rather simple and conventional way to begin the letter is to tell the employer how you found out about the job. For employers, it clarifies the intent of your letter as well as gives them some sense of the effectiveness of the various ways they use to advertise employment listings. For you, it gives you the opportunity to specify the job your interested in. And, if you happen to have been referred and/or encouraged to apply by some influential person in your employment network, identifying the individual by name in this initial paragraph may be beneficial (e.g., your cover letter and resume may be routed more expeditiously through the review process).

Paragraph #2: Why you are interested?

There are probably lots of reasons you are interested enough to take the time to write a cover letter to attach to your resume. For the most part, employers are interested in hearing you why you are motivated - why this company, why this particular job, why this location, why at this time in your life do you believe you are ready to pursue this opportunity. Remember, among the Top 10 Personal Characteristics Employers Seek In Job Candidates, motivation/initiative is ranked 3rd.

Paragraph #3: How you are qualified?

Probably the most important paragraph in your cover letter, this is your opportunity to relate your qualifications - your academics, your work experiences, and your extracurricular experiences - to the various skills the employer has outlined in the position description. Using the information listed on your resume as a reference point, you want to convince the employer your qualifications are not only a good match, but that you are confident you can help the company achieve its goals. There is an art to cover letter writing - a subtle way of conveying information about you, but in ways that address the employers' needs.

Paragraph #4: What steps you plan to take to be considered?

Much has been written about how to close a cover letter, and many of the examples seem to suggest either passive or aggressive closings. If every employer took the time to respond to every cover letter they received, then a passive closing would suffice. Reality, employers are often overwhelmed with resumes for job openings and often lack the time to respond to everyone. In-between these extremes is an assertive approach that seems to meet the job candidate's need for maintaining some control while, at the same time, offering him/her another opportunity to demonstrate interest and professionalism. Using this approach, close the cover letter with a sentence like: "Thank you for your consideration of my credentials. I will contact you in the next five days to see if you require any additional information regarding my qualifications." About five days later, you should try to contact the employer to see if their decision process might be rushed by your completing a company application form, or by forwarding a copy of your transcripts, a list of your references, a writing sample, etc. By making this call and offering additional information, you are demonstrating professionalism.

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