Writing the Perfect Cover
the power to make or break your job-hunt, the cover
letter accompanying your resume may well be the most important
tool you will use during your search for employment.
well crafted cover letter; one that effectively highlights
your unique skills and accomplishments and clearly illustrates
your potential value to the employer; will give you a competitive
edge over other candidates. Designed to seize the attention
of the reader, he or she will be curious to learn more about
you. With attention and interest aroused, he will turn to
your resume with an eye toward your employment candidacy.
the other hand, a poorly written letter communicates a lot to the
reader, but unfortunately, the message that is sent is not the one
that you want to transmit. Send a poorly organized cover letter
that looks unprofessional in form and design or that is filled with
grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors, and you send a message
that you are an inarticulate and disorganized individual who is
unable to communicate clearly and concisely.
cover letter is, after all, the first communication that you will
have with a potential employer. The reader will inevitably form
an opinion about you from what is presented in this document. Given
the importance of first impressions, it is obviously in your best
interest as a job hunter to spend both time and thought writing
a clear, concise, and attention grabbing cover letter. Even if you
have the most stunning qualifications and accomplishments and have
spent hours, or even days, crafting an impressive and high impact
resume that communicates these, if your cover letter is poorly written,
this resume may not even be read.
a resume that arrives on an employer's desk unaccompanied by a cover
letter will likely end up directly in the garbage. The failure to
send a cover letter conveys to the employer that you are an unsavvy
candidate, unfamiliar with even standard business practices.
1: It is important that your cover letter be visually attractive.
Assure this by using quality paper and envelopes. Many individuals
use paper that matches their resume in order to achieve balance
and continuity. If you have crafted your resume on a computer, you
may wish to use a matching letterhead for both documents. If paper
matching your resume is unavailable, it is acceptable to use personal
stationery or a white "laid" or "linen" paper
in 24-lb bond or higher. Pay special attention to details, including
the print quality. Laser or ink jet printing is preferable.
2: Unless you have used personal stationery or letterhead matching
your resume, begin your letter by typing the return address, excluding
your name, in the upper left or right corner. The date appears next,
on the left margin, two lines under your address. Apply two more
lines and type the full names of the addressee, apply another line
and type his or her title, another line and the company name, and
finally, under this, the address. The salutation should begin two
lines under the address and should be in the form of "Dear
Mr. ..." or "Dear Ms. ..." In business correspondence,
you should always use a colon after the salutation rather than a
is essential that you take the time to personalize each letter in
this way. A letter addressed to "Whom it May Concern"
will almost always be tossed aside. Do a little investigative work
to learn the name and title of the person who has the hiring power
in the company. Many times, you can obtain this information by simply
making a two-minute phone call to the company or by spending a little
time in the library. If, despite your best efforts, you cannot obtain
the name of the hiring authority, try "Dear Hiring Manager:".
3: The body of the letter comes next. Begin by thinking of your
cover letter as a personal marketing document. As with any other
marketing document, the purpose is to grab the reader's attention
while emphasizing the most attractive benefits of the product or
service. In this case, YOU are the product or service, and the message
that you want to convey is that of your unique value to the employer.
In order to do this, your letter must promote you to the employer
by highlighting your achievements and accomplishments.
are three basic parts to a cover letter:
An introduction - a statement of who you are and why
you are sending the letter
2. A sales pitch - an overview of your qualifications,
skills, abilities, and accomplishments
3. A call to action - a request for a specific action
such as an interview
you will cover these three basic parts in just 3 - 5 concise paragraphs
typed on one page. The following is an outline of how the "typical"
cover letter content is organized.
Paragraph - Immediately state the position you
are interested in and the reason that you would be the best
candidate for this position. If you are responding to an advertisement,
state this. If you have been doing research into the company,
this is a good place to mention it.
Second Paragraph - Discuss your qualifications
and show how the company will benefit from them. Highlight
your special accomplishments. Consider using bullets to make
these stand out. If you are responding to an advertisement,
use this paragraph to detail how your background parallels
the qualification requirements mentioned in the ad. Don't
feel that you need to write a detailed synopsis of your employment
history. Include just the highlights and the pertinent information.
Paragraph - Make it clear to the reader that you would
like to speak to them in person. Specifically ask for an interview
and make sure that you include your telephone number and any special
instructions to reach you. Alternatively, write that you will follow
up with a telephone call on a specific date at a specific time and
then make sure that you do.
4: The closing of your letter should appear two lines under
the body. Align this with your return address. This may be either
on the right or left margin, depending on the style you chose. A
simple "Sincerely," will usually be fine. Under this,
apply four lines and type your name. Make certain that after the
letter is printed, you insert your signature above this.
an enclosure line on the left margin and several lines under your
name. This may be in the form "Enclosure" or "Enc.
resume". Finally, whenever possible, use an envelope that
matches your paper. Try to avoid using mailing labels as this
makes your envelope look similar to a bulk mailing and it may not
be opened. Although it is acceptable to hand address or type the
envelope, some experts believe that a hand written envelope will
be more likely to be noticed and opened as it resembles personal
correspondence. If you have the time and are sending only a few
letters at a time, you may wish to use this method, otherwise, it
may be more efficient to print the envelopes using a mail merge
Contributing Author: Michelle Dumas, CPRW, NCRW is
a nationally certified professional resume writer and the owner
and operator of Distinctive Documents. From an office based in Somersworth,
NH, USA, Distinctive Documents provides comprehensive resume services
to job hunters worldwide. For more information about the services
of Distinctive Documents or to contact the author about this article,
please call (603) 742-3983, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
, or point your browser to
© Michelle Dumas 1997