Cover letter consternation

Dear Leslie,

I am a college student about to graduate this month. As I begin my job search, I have found that even hourly positions require a cover letter now. I have not needed to write a cover letter in the past and because Ia��m not sure how to go about writing one, I avoid the jobs requesting one. Can you give me some guidance for drafting a cover letter?

Dear Reader,

The need to write a cover letter should not stand between you and a job. If you can write a research paper, you can write a decent cover letter. It demands the same level of concentration and, lucky for you, ita��s way shorter.

Cover letters are your emissaries. You want them to look professional, speak clearly, strike a winning tone and be error-free. If they spot one typographical or grammatical error, recruiters will toss them without a second look.

First, gather all the pertinent information. Youa��ll need your rA�sumA�, name and title of the person doing the hiring, job description and any information youa��ve gathered on the organization. Just like planning for an academic paper, you need to do adequate research before you start writing. Learn as much as you can about the employer, the job, the interviewer and the industry. What, for instance, are the companya��s strengths and weaknesses? Do you have anything in common, such as where you went to school or grew up, with your interviewer?

Research in hand, ita��s time to start drafting. I say drafting because the bulk of your writing time should be spent revising. Ita��s unusual to write the perfectly phrased love letter the first time out, never mind a cover letter to a company you are just starting to court. Expect to revise, and you wona��t be frozen by the feeling that you have to get it exactly right the first time.

Opening lines are key. If someone who knows the hiring manager has referred you, mention that in the first sentence. If you are not so fortunate, then start out by stating the position you seek and where you saw it listed.

In either case, use the rest of the first paragraph to grab the reader by making it plain that you could be a top candidate for the job. How do you stand out as a potential hire? Put another way, what problem does the company have that you can solve? If you are applying to a firm trying to expand its appeal among the college crowd, for example, you might say: a�?A recent college graduate with a major in psychology, I believe I can offer some insight into what motivates college-age buyers.a�? If therea��s not an obvious connection, then focus on your most marketable skills and your enthusiasm for the organizationa��s mission.

Use the second paragraph to highlight the most relevant information in your rA�sumA�. Give a specific example of an accomplishment that demonstrates a skill or attribute that would be useful in the position you desire. It could be organizational skill, leadership abilities or even persistence.

Try to use your final paragraph to make a�?a graceful exit.a�? Refer to any enclosures (or attachments, if you are corresponding via e-mail). Thank the reader for her consideration. Express a willingness to answer any questions she may have and a desire to talk with her about the position. Give your contact information (e-mail and phone number), but make it clear that you will take the initiative for following up. Lay out a reasonable time line (in a week or two) and be respectful by making it clear that you would like to schedule a phone appointment or interview at her convenience.

All thata��s left to do now is to sign off with a a�?Sincerely,a�? and your signature, right? Wrong! Dona��t forget to proofread. Then have a friend with eagle eyes read it. Fix the errors, and then repeat that vital last step.

Here is the original story at philly . com
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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009 and is filed under Career Management, Careers, News, Resumes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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