Tips to a successful cover letter

A cover letter is a professional business letter that introduces you to prospective employers and should always accompany a resume. In the form of a narrative, it provides depth to your resume, highlighting your strongest qualifications, stressing how you can meet the employer’s needs.

A cover letter is an original statement that introduces you by highlighting your interests, education, and experience as they apply to a particular employer and its available position. The personalized cover letter and resume form a package designed to get you to the next stage: the job interview. While your resume should be tailored to the job which you are applying, the cover letter is your best chance to connect the dots for the employer.

A successful cover letter should follow the standard business letter format and is one page with three to five paragraphs. It can be structured using a few basic principles:

  • The first paragraph can make reference to a specific position or an inquiry about possible positions in a particular field. If applicable, you can mention who referred you to the organization. Also mention why you are interested in that company.
  • The second paragraph relates your interests and background to the specific activities and needs of the employer. Be specific in stating how your background meets their needs. It is imperative that you name your top skills and back them up with examples and experiences. The letter should convey that you know something about the organization, that you are excited about exploring the possibility of working with them, and that you feel you have the potential for making a valuable contribution.
  • The final paragraph requests the opportunity for an interview or mentions that you will call on a specific date and that you hope to discuss your background and interests at that time. Close with an expression of appreciation.

Simple tips…

  • Each cover letter should be individually written.
  • Consider using the same heading format as on your resume.
  • Use the correct name and title of the individual who will do the interviewing.
  • Refer to the employer as Dr., Mr., or Ms….not Mrs.
  • Mention specific skills from the job description in your cover letter and tell them employer about a time you have demonstrated them.
  • If you have a specific person you are addressing, make sure to include their name and title above the company address
  • Never use “to whom it may concern” as your greeting.
  • You should write a cover letter every time you submit a job application, unless the directions specify otherwise.
  • Always check for spelling and punctuation errors.

As the cover letter is the employer’s first glimpse at you as a candidate, it must be organized, professional, and 100% error-free. When you spend time crafting a customized letter, you will stand out from the pool of applicants.

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