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How To Write a Winning Cover Letter


Best bets for cutting through the clutter.


If you write a cover letter like this, your job search is going nowhere:

To Who/Whom It May Concern:

I saw your ad online and I thought I'd apply for the job because it sounds like fun.

I've had several internships with big companies and I'll graduate in June with excellent grades. The money offered in the ad seems low for someone with my stellar qualifications, but we can talk about it.

Attached is my resume. I know you'll be impressed.Minyanville's Tips for June Grads

Give me a shout after you've read it!

Your Future Friend and Colleague,

Winston (Super) Starr

The letter underscores the applicant's lack of experience and inflated opinion of himself. It tells the company nothing about his academic background or prior experience. The tone conveys a turbocharged ego - not the confidence employers seek.

To catch the attention of a prospective employer, address your cover letter to a specific person. The letter states your interest in the job, outlines your experience and directs the recruiter to your attached resume. Thank the person for taking the time to review your material and say that you'll follow up with a phone call at the end of the following week.

A good cover letter gets the hiring manager to turn the page and review your resume. The cover letter must be concise. Remember: You're not writing your autobiography and anything longer than a single page won't be read.

Be sure to tailor each cover letter to the job application because one size doesn't fit all. Some applicants blast out buckets of cover letters by email and forget to change the name of the company. If you're applying to Universal Widget and the letter reads Bent Paperclip Inc., you're dead.

Read the job ad carefully and respond to its major points. Tell the recruiter how your qualifications match those listed in the advertisement.

Tone and presentation count. Be formal without being pretentious. Always use a courtesy title - Mr. Mrs. Miss, or Ms. Never start your letter "Dear Sally" or "Dear Harry."

If you don't know how to spell the person's name or don't have the job title, check the company's website or call the office. Write it down and read it back to the person who passes on the information. If you get this wrong, you won't be considered.

Your cover letter must be crisp and error-free. Run the spellchecker and have an eagle-eyed friend proofread it. Typos will make you look like an idiot and knock you out of consideration.

Never cut and paste sections of your resume into the cover letter. It looks like hell and tells the recruiter that you don't care about the job. Don't use goofy fonts and never use all caps to highlight a point because this destroys the appearance of your letter. You can't go wrong with 12- or 14-point Times New Roman.

In the first paragraph, tell the recruiter what job you seek. Say why you're interested in the company. You don't have to say where you saw the job ad unless that's requested or if you were referred by a friend who works at the company.

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