The Write Question #69: How To Write Cover Letters

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welcome to the right question I’m Daphne gray grant today my topic is how to write cover letters I have a question from Amanda Harriette a writer who lives in Boston Massachusetts here’s what she’s asked my name is Amanda Harriette and I’m calling from Boston Massachusetts I was scanning her website and I loved the update by the way for an article on cover letters but I didn’t find anything have you written about them I’d be really interested in your perspective thank you thanks for the question Amanda writing a good cover letter is one of the secrets to getting a great job so you’re wise to pay particular attention to this even though it feels like a nuisance or a pain in the butt think of a cover letter as a type of audition it’s a chance to make a good first impression on the person reading it and persuade them to pay even closer attention to your resume there are many do’s and dont’s associated with cover letters so let me begin by listing some of the do’s number 1 a cover letter must always fit on one page if it doesn’t it’s too long even a 55 year old applying to be a CEO with a wealth of experience must stick to one page number two a cover letter must always be personalized don’t ever send out a generic letter you can have a basic letter that you tweak but tweak it you must number three the cover letter must always be addressed to a specific person don’t use dear sir or dear ma’am and certainly not to whom it may concern if you need to make phone calls or send emails to get this information be sure to do that work number four you need some background information about the company where you’re applying so when you’re calling them to collect the name of the person to whom you’re applying be sure to get some additional interesting information about the company and the job you’re seeking number five be sure to have a professional email address don’t use something like saucy sister at yahoo. com or hot guy four nine six at hotmail. com instead use your real name at a gmail address at the top of the letter put your own name and contact information also use the name and contact info if the person you’re applying to include the specific name of the job you’re applying for you can do it one of two ways either across the top like this or you can mention it in your opening paragraph I’ve included a link below to a website with some more details on layout okay now let’s get into some juicy details the ideal cover letter is only four paragraphs in the first graph describe who you are where you saw the posting your overall experience and why you want to apply then the second graph summarize how your skills experiences and abilities will help you meet the company’s needs don’t just cut and paste this information from your resume instead rephrase it using some of the specific language that appeared in the job posting include bullets and use numbers with these bullets for example if you increase sales 25 percent in your current job be sure to mention that number also if there’s a tool or software skill the job requires be sure to list it here in the third graph display the research you’ve done on the company and explain how your experiences can fit in with their needs and goals in the fourth graph say you’re available for an interview and repeat your contact information tell them that you’ll be back in touch with them in a week if you haven’t heard back from them and thank them for their attention I know that for paragraphs doesn’t sound like very much but it’s meant to be an introduction not a full meal deal consider it an appetizer or an amuse bouche something people eat to make them want to eat more now occasionally you may be asked to send your cover letter in the body of an email rather than as an attachment if you’re sending anything by email always put your name and job title in the subject line but avoid formatting the body of an email like letter this means you go straight to the dear so and so part rather than having their contact information at the top again be sure to have the person’s real name and not just dear sir/madam then give the four paragraphs I just outlined end the email with a professional signature you can do this by scanning your signature and turning it into a JPEG which you attach now let me give you three don’ts for all cover letters don’t use the word eye too much it will make you look narcissistic and self involved once you’ve finished the letter count the number of times you’ve used the word I and rephrase as many of them as possible don’t mention any other jobs you might be seeking even though everyone will likely assume you’re looking for other jobs it’s better for you if you act as though you’re not don’t ever send a resume or a cover letter without proofreading it carefully first better yet ask a friend or a colleague to proofread it for you or hire a professional proof reader if your letter or resume has a single typo you won’t get the job finally let me wrap up with a quote from the late American professional tennis player Arthur Ashe one important key to success is self confidence an important key to self confidence is preparation thanks for the question Amanda writing a great cover letter is a type of preparation that not only can improve your self confidence but dramatically increase the chances of you getting the job you want you..

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