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Cover Letter Tips

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Cover letters are key communication tools. Writing appropriate and effective letters can be your finest marketing tool to entice the employer to meet and learn more about you.  Go through the steps of clarifying your career direction and articulating your potential value to the employer by using the following suggestions and look at a sample cover letter prior to starting.  Remember, even though the cover letter is done last, it is seen first.

  • Research the employer and reflect that information in your letter. Mention the company by name.
  • Try to have at least two sentences in each paragraph. Have at least three paragraphs.
  • Do not use acronyms unless the letter will be sent internally. They are usually not recognized outside the organization.
  • Use active voice and action verbs.
  • Keep your letter to one page, if possible.
  • The writer's name, address and phone number should be at the top of the letter. The email address and/or fax number can be added if they are used regularly.
  • Address a specific individual. Make an effort to find the name, correct title, and address. If the name is still not available, consider not using a salutation and just begin with the first paragraph. Use the title "Dear Human Resource Manager," or another appropriate title, only as a last resort. Do not use "To whom it may concern," or "Dear Sir."
  • Mention any important names of people you are connected to in the first paragraph. This could be someone who told you about the job and suggested you apply.
  • Business letters are formal documents. Use last names and appropriate titles "Dear Ms. Smith," or "Mr. Smith," or "Dr. Smith."
  • Make the connection between the company's needs and your skills. Tell them how you can be an asset.
  • Remain positive. Do not criticize former employers or complain about former jobs.
  • Include specific facts, numbers, and examples whenever possible.
  • Refer to your resume but don't repeat it; enhance it.
  • Show enthusiasm and energy.
  • Don't discuss salary if you can avoid it. If asked for a salary history, use a salary range that is consistent with the salary for that position in that location.
  • Don't lie or exaggerate.
  • Tell them how you will follow up and do it.
  • Close with one of these: "Sincerely," "Sincerely yours," "Respectfully," or "Very truly yours."
  • Have someone else read it before you send it.
  • Remember to sign the letter.
  • Use good quality resume paper for both the cover letter and the resume. Large 9" by 12" envelopes are usually best because paper that has not been folded is easier to copy and store.