Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cover Letter Basics

Well-written cover letters are often your only chance to convince potential employers take the time to read your résumé. Your cover letter should convey your interest in the company and show your enthusiasm for the possibility of working for the organization.

There are two basic types of cover letters. Those that are unsolicited, which are used to inquire about opportunities or request general information about a company, and letters that used to apply for a specific position within a company. Regardless of the reason for writing the letter, the following general guidelines apply:

Use Business Format:
  • Address the letter to a specific person. Avoid using “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”
  • Ensure that your correspondence is error-free
  • Match the font and header/footer on your cover letter to your résumé

Parts of a Cover Letter (Hard Copy)
Top of Page
  • Your name and return address
  • Your phone number and e-mail address (optional)
  • Below your contact information, type the current date

N.B. If you are submitting an application electronically, there is no need to date the document and you should paste the text of your cover letter in the body of the e-mail. The position for which you are applying should be written in the subject line, and your contact information should be placed under your typed signature.

Introductory Paragraph:
  • Briefly state who you are and why you are writing
  • Mention the specific job title and how your found out about the opportunity
  • If you have a personal contact, be sure to refer to them in your letter


Body:

  • State how your skills, education and experience match the requirements of the advertised position
  • Use stories or numbers to provide additional details
  • Mention how the your experience will be of benefit to the employer


Closing Paragraph:

  • Express your appreciation for the potential employer’s time and consideration
  • Indicate what actions you would like to happen next, i.e. ask for an interview
  • Sign the document and place your phone number and e-mail address under your name


Although the writing and sending of the letter part of your application, if is best that you do follow up on your submission within 2 weeks. This follow-up step will allow you to confirm that the company has received your documents and give you the opportunity to remind them of your interest in the job.