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How to write a cover letter

A cover letter is your chance to make a good first impression with an employer and it is in some cases more effective than resume writing. Resumes are ultimately impersonal listings of experiences, education and accomplishments. Your cover letter allows you to tell an appealing story that provides a personal, relatable context for your resume. It allows you to make yourself stand out from the crowd of applicants, it provides you with an opportunity to convince a potential employer to read your resume and it lets you explain how your experiences tie into the opening to which you are applying to.

As a preliminary step to writing a cover letter, you should make sure that you have carefully read the job description. Highlight qualifications and tasks that relate to your profile and ensure that, if there are any gaps in your resume, you can fill them in via your cover letter.

It is also important to research the company which you are applying to and, if possible, the person who will be reviewing your resume. Your cover letter is your first chance to express how your mindset matches up with that of the company and make a personal connection with the hiring manager.

Your cover letter should be formatted neatly and professionally. Many cover letters are sent by email. If they are sent as an attachment, you should format them as you would format professional correspondence.  If they are sent in the body of an email, heading elements can be skipped, as they may look odd.

Your first paragraph should identify the position you are applying to. More importantly, it should grab the hiring recruiter’s attention and make it clear that you are a serious candidate for the position.

In your middle paragraph, you should focus on matching your qualifications to the requirements of the position. Include details about the company you are applying to. This will not only emphasize that you are serious about the job and not sending out a generic letter, but it will also make it easier for you to show how you can help the organization in reaching its goals.

The final paragraph should accomplish four main goals. You should direct the employer to your resume, ask for an interview, indicate a time period during which you will contact them and express your appreciation to them for their time and consideration.

Once you have written your letter, be sure to proofread it. Grammatical and spelling errors should be avoided at all costs. Get rid of colloquialisms and contractions. Your cover letter should be less than a page long. Be concise and clear; do not provide too much extraneous information. Also, make sure that your language is specific rather than vague. Tell your potential employer exactly what experiences you have had that make you a great candidate for the position, not merely that you have experience.

Ensure that your cover letter is professional-looking, and, if possible, matches your resume. Use a simple, clean font. If you are sending a standard letter rather than an electronic one, use the same type of paper as your resume. If you are sending an electronic version, use the recommended file format.

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