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Effective Cover Letter for Jobs

Resumes and cover letters are two powerful tools in the job search process.  They provide an employer with the first impression of you as an individual and provide an opportunity for you to ‘promote’ yourself as a candidate.  Resumes and cover letters are professional documents that demonstrate your ability to articulate yourself in a concise manner.  Their purpose is to get you an interview – not a job.

A resume is a formal summary of your education, experiences, and skills.  A personalized cover letter introducing you to the potential employer, identifying the position you are applying for, and indicating how you learned of the opening, should accompany every resume. This letter should briefly provide one or two examples of your experience relevant to the position, and should convey interest and enthusiasm for the position.

Cover Letter Construction
While employers allow some freedom in resume construction, cover letters are usually expected to follow more narrow guidelines. Cover letters not properly formatted will immediately weaken your candidacy for a position. Cover letters are usually read after it has been determined from your resume that you have the minimum qualifications for a position. They should summarize experiences and skills that are relevant to the specific position and the organization.

Specific Information to Include in Your Cover Letter
Date: The date should appear at the left-hand side of the page. Write out the date; do not use abbreviations.

Return Address: Your address should appear two lines below the date, without your name. You should avoid abbreviations in the addresses of your cover letters, except for the state.

Addressee: Two lines below the return address, list the full name of the addressee. On the next line, list the individual’s formal business title, on the subsequent line, list the name of the company. This is followed by the company’s address, which generally takes two lines. Try to find out the name and proper title of the addressee before you send out a cover letter.

Salutation: The salutation should be typed three lines beneath the company’s address. It should begin with “Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs.” followed by the individual’s last name and a comma. Do not use a first name. If you are not sure, use a safe and general salutation such as “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Personnel Manager”. General salutations are stronger choices than “Dear Sir or Madam” and in any case, avoid using potentially offensive salutations like “Dear Gentlemen” or “Dear Sirs.”

Body: Should be typed two lines below the salutation. Should consist of 3-4 paragraphs. See Sample Format.

Closing: Should be typed two lines below the body. Skip four lines and type your full name. Sign in between the closing and your printed name.

Enclosure Line: Include an enclosure line to indicate the documents included with your cover letter.

Points to Consider
Be Brief: A cover letter should never be more than one page long.

Be Powerful: Emphasize your skills by using action-verb phrases rather than nouns. Give examples of your accomplishments and strengths.

Be Consistent and Logical: Make sure to keep the same format, style and paper throughout your documents.

Be Conscious of Image: Cover letters should be visually appealing and should never contain typographical or grammatical errors.

Proofreading and Editing
Have your resume and cover letter critiqued by several people, including experienced proofreaders. Make the appropriate changes and show them the revisions. At least three revisions are usually needed to produce a solid product. The Career Center Staff is an excellent resource for resume and cover letter reviews.

Do not be afraid to delete unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs.

Printing Your Resume and Cover Letter
Your resume and cover letter should be word-processed on white resume paper available at the CC Bookstore or any office product store. Mail the resume and cover letter in an 8x11 manila envelope. Unless your writing is extremely neat and easy to read, type your envelopes. Address it with the full name and title, to the person you identified in your cover letter, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Up
Calling to check on your status or to verify that your resume and cover letter have been received may show the employer that you are motivated and very interested in the position. However, it is important to make good decisions concerning the degree of follow up. If, for example, 200 people apply for a position and 25% of them call, that is 50 calls for an already busy individual! In addition, calling if the employer has specifically requested no phone calls can be interpreted as not being able to follow simple instructions. Your best judgment should guide you on this subject. If you have specific questions about a unique situation, consult the Career Center staff for advice on how to proceed.


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