Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How To Write a Good Cover Letter

1. Be sure to address your cover letter --by name and title -- to the person who could actually hire you. When it's impossible to learn their name, use their functional title, such as "Dear Manager." You may have to guess ("Dear Selection Committee") but never say "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam"!

2. Show that you know a little about the company, and that you are aware of their current problems, interests, or priorities.

3. Express your enthusiasm and interest in this line of work and this company. If you have a good idea that might help the employer resolve a problem currently facing their industry, offer to come in and discuss it.

4. Project warmth and friendliness, while still being professional. Avoid any generic phrases such as "Enclosed please find." This is a letter to a real live person!
5. Make a personal link to a specific individual in that company, if at all possible -- also called "name dropping." For example, "My neighbor, Phil Lyons, works in your research-and-development department, and from what he tells me about the company and its current directions, I think I could be a good fit for your team."

6. Set yourself apart from the crowd. Identify at least one thing about you that's unique -- say a special talent for getting along with everybody at work, or some unusual skill that goes beyond the essential requirements of the position -- something that distinguishes you AND is relevant to the job. (Then, if several others are equally qualified for the job, your uniqueness may be the reason to choose YOU.)
7. Be specific about what you are asking for and what you are offering. Make it clear which position you're applying for and just what experience or skill you have that relates to that position.

8. Take the initiative about the next step whenever possible, and be specific. "I'll call your office early next week to see if we could meet soon and discuss this job opening," for example. OR -- if you're exploring for UN-announced jobs that my come up -- "I'll call your office next week to see if we could meet soon, to discuss your company's needs for help in the near future."

9. Keep it brief -- a few short paragraphs, all on one page.

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