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How to Write a Good Cover Letter: Resume Cover Letter

  • What is a COVER LETTER?

The cover letter is an individually typed letter of introduction for yourself that is composed for a specific company and sent directly to the person who makes employment decisions. It should motivate the reviewer to read your resume and invite you for an interview. It should provide an excellent first impression of you and your ability to communicate through neatness, and use of correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. The tone should be warm and conversational, as well as professional. Convey enthusiasm for the company. Let some of your personality show through.

  • DO NOT address your letter "To Whom it May Concern"
  • DO find out the name of the person who makes hiring decisions and write to her or him
  • DO NOT write one general letter and send it to several companies
  • DO compose each letter individually for each specific job or company
  • DO keep it to one page for entry level positions
  • DO use the same font and paper you use for your resume for a professional appearance

If a contact name is not given in the job listing, or if you are sending an unsolicited, or "prospecting" letter of application to a company, there are numerous directories and professional publications in campus libraries, career services offices, and departments to consult to find the proper person's name. You may also look the company up in the phone book, and call and ask the receptionist to whom resumes should be directed. However you do it, GET A CONTACT NAME AND USE IT.

  • When do I use a cover letter?

The resume is NEVER, NEVER mailed to a prospective employer without an accompanying cover letter. The cover letter introduces you in writing in your absence. If you were meeting with a prospective employer in person, at a career fair, for example, you would NOT use a cover letter, you would introduce yourself and your qualifications personally. The cover letter should focus the prospective employer's attention on your pertinent areas of expertise by summarizing your experience very specifically in relationship to the requirements of the job for which you are applying.

COVER LETTER CONTENTS

Paragraph 1 - The Opening
Use this paragraph to state why you are writing, and to get the prospective employer's interest. State:

  • The position for which you are applying
  • Your employment objective (the particular position and/or area)
  • Your academic degree level (ex: Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences) and, if relevant, your major
  • How and where you learned of the position or organization (job ad, referral from a professor, etc.)

Paragraph 2 - The Body

Use this paragraph to justify the prospective employer's interest.

  • Briefly describe your educational and work experience background. Explain how they would make a good match with the current, ongoing or future needs of that specific company.
  • Relate your skills and qualifications to the specific job requirements and type of business.

Use exact wording from the ad whenever possible.

Use examples of your expertise and experience to make your points.

If you are not responding to a specific job ad, you will need to do some research on the company to write this paragraph most effectively.

Paragraph 3 - The Closing

Use this paragraph to:

  • Mention the action that you will take, for example: you will call soon to arrange an interview.
  • Request the action you would like the employer to take: call you to arrange an interview, send you additional information, etc.
  • Refer the reader to your enclosed resume or other documentation.
  • If you will be in the employer's area or will be attending a national professional association meeting the employer is likely to attend in the near future, mention the particular dates. The employer may appreciate the opportunity to interview you with little or no expense involved.
  • Thank the reader for taking time to review and consider your materials.
  • Indicate your willingness to answer further questions or provide additional information, and include how you may be contacted.

EMPLOYER RESPONSE TIME & APPLICANT FOLLOW-UP

Employer response time is usually between two to four weeks. Applicants who have not heard from an employer after four weeks should do a follow-up either by mail or telephone. The follow-up should be directed to the original contact person and should be low-key. Make sure that the follow-up does NOT come across to the prospective employer as: "Why haven't I heard from you?" State the date your original letter was sent and ask if it was received, restate your interest in the specific company, and ask if any further information is needed. If a specific application deadline or closing date was given for a job opening, the prospective employer should be given four weeks from that date to respond.

Next: Best Cover Letters 


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