How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

Posted on May 14, 2011

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A well-written, succinct cover letter that highlights your skills and experiences is the best way to present yourself as a qualified candidate for the position you’re seeking. Yes, your professional resume is designed to do the same thing, but a cover letter gives you the opportunity to expand upon certain information or highlight particular skills that didn’t fit on your resume.

Cover letters have a specific format that must be followed, and each paragraph serves a different purpose. Follow the guidelines below to craft the perfect cover letter for your next application:

• The header. Your cover letter should have a header with your name, address and contact information at the top that matches the header on your resume. The body of the letter should include the current date, the name of the hiring manager, the name of the company and the company’s address. Look up the specific spacing requirements online to make sure you’re following them exactly. Address your letter “Dear (Mr. or Ms. Name).”

• The opening paragraph. This paragraph needs to briefly address the position you’re interested in and state why you are qualified to do it. Take this opportunity to note your interest in the company and mention one or two specific things you like about their mission, business ventures, goals, etc.

• The second paragraph. Use this paragraph to give a clear picture of what you have to offer the position and the company. Feel free to use bullet points for skim value and readability. This section needs to radiate confidence (but not cockiness) and show the prospective employer why your skills and experiences make you an asset for this position.

• The third paragraph. This paragraph should offer additional background information that’s relevant to the position. Don’t repeat information from the previous paragraph, and try to insert keywords and phrases from the specific job description where possible.

• The closing. This short section should thank your reader for their time and consideration and invite them to learn more about your skills and experiences in your attached resume. Also be sure to inquire about a face to face interview or phone call to discuss career opportunities.

Although cover letters follow a specific format, there is plenty of room for creativity and personalization. It’s your first chance – and may be your only chance – to make an impression on your prospective employer, so it’s essential that you take the time to craft an effective, straight-forward and thoughtful cover letter for each position you’re seeking.

Darlene Zambruski is the Managing Editor of ResumeEdge, a leading online provider of professional resume writing services. The company’s hand-picked team of resume writers specializes in 40 different industries and works to provide professional resume and cover letter writing services for people seeking employment in a wide variety of fields.

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