Writing Effective Cover Letters

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welcome to writing effective cover letters presented by the job and career education center at carnegie library of pittsburgh my name is rhea the goal of this tutorial is to discuss the value in mechanics of cover letters this tutorial will address some common cover letter questions including what is a cover letter why do you need a cover letter what materials do you need how should a cover letter look what do you need to know to write a cover letter how do you find needed information is there help for writing a cover letter before you can write an effective cover letter it’s important to know what a cover letter is a cover letter is a formal business letter that accompanies a resume and other job application materials it presents your qualifications differently than a resume and gives you an opportunity to contextual your experiences if a cover letter is required don’t omit it you may not be asked for a cover letter but consider including one anyway sometimes emloyers use different terms for cover letters cover letters are also called letters of application letters of interest and interest statements you might be wondering why you need a cover letter cover letters are part of a professional polished application packet the first thing that a cover letter does is introduce you to the hiring manager it’s your first impression and gives you a chance to connect with the company if you know someone at the company you can mention them in your cover letter another benefit of a cover letter is the opportunity for you to show what makes you unique this is easier to do in a letter than in a resume in the cover letter you can express your enthusiasm for a position tailor your experience to a job posting and stand out from other applications sending a generic cover letter won’t help you be specific and show that you want to become part of the company finally a cover letter takes time to create taking the time to create a cover letter indicates that you are truly interested in the job posting take time with your cover letter and give it your best effort give yourself at least twenty four hours between writing and sending your cover letter and resume this gives you time to review and polish your materials don’t treat cover letters as an afterthought they are valuable tools in your job search now that you know what a cover letter is and what it’s for it’s important to think about how it looks there are only a few materials that you’ll need most employers expect cover letters to be sent as electronic files if you’re sending an electronic cover letter be sure to use the file format requested by the employer cover letter files created using microsoft word end in . doc or . docx you can also save these files as pdf documents ending in . pdf rich text files ending in . rtf or as simple text files ending in . txt some employers may still request physical application packets in that case used high quality resume paper to print your cover letter and accompanying resume most office supply stores sell resume paper which will be labeled as such be sure to buy matching large format envelopes for printed documents this ensures that you don’t have to fold your materials when you mail them finally for a polished and professional presentation use clear printable labels for your application packets this will ensure that your materials are legible and contribute to your overall professional presentation remember you can print resumes on high quality paper in the jcec with the right materials and a specific job posting you’re ready to answer the big question how should a cover letter look the format of the cover letter should match your resume use the same font layout and paper a lot of sources will tell you to limit your cover letter to a single page this is important the cover letter isn’t a novel it’s a focused targeted response to a job posting keep the cover letter focused so that you don’t have to worry about the length it’s important to keep your cover letter focused only include relevant experience and qualifications the goal isn’t to list everything the goal is to highlight the ways in which you match the job posting’s requirements always follow any directions given in the job posting if the posting asks you to address a particular topic in your cover letter be sure to do it now we’ll talk about the actual parts of the cover letter the basic components of a cover letter are the date the addressee information the about or re: line the salutation or greeting the statement of interest the body paragraphs the closing and the signature every cover letter should include the date the date should be as close as possible to the date you submit your application keep their date updated if you work on your cover letter over a number of days the addressee is the person to whom you are sending the letter include their full name title and full mailing address remember to spell everything correctly re: means regarding or in response to this line tells the reader what the letter will be about a good guideline is to put the title of the position to which you are applying in the r e line if there is a posting number associated with the job posting include it as well whenever possible address the cover letter to the hiring manager if you don’t know who the hiring manager is address the letter to human resources if there are directions about addressing the letter be sure to follow them the statement of interest is the first part of the body of your letter it explains why you’re writing in the statement of interest state the position for which you are applying mention any people in the company who suggested you apply maintain a professional tone but don’t be afraid to clearly indicate your interest in the position the body paragraphs are the part of your letter that will take the most time and effort to write the primary goal of the body paragraphs is to give your qualifications and connect them directly to the job posting as you’re doing this highlight the most relevant qualifications you have remain focused on what you can do for the company avoid making the letter only about what you want or need from a position or company at the end of your letter thank your reader express your availability for interviews and or phone calls about the position end with sincerely or another professional closing sentiment finally include your signature for an electronic letter type your name under the closing sentiment for a printed letter type your name under the closing sentiment and leave an extra line of space sign your name in ink after you print for either format don’t forget your contact information under your typed name use the same contact information that you use on your resume you might be tempted to jump in and start writing however taking time to prepare to write can make the process faster easier and more effective the first thing to do before writing a cover letter is to read the job posting as you read notice the job qualifications and the job duties think about these questions are you qualified for the job would you really want to do the job if you aren’t qualified or don’t think you would be able to do the job think twice about applying after you’ve read the posting find out about the company some questions you might ask are is it a big or small company how old is it how many employees does it have what is the company’s focus what makes the company click for you these are questions that can give you valuable insight into what kind of work environment you may encounter try to find out who the hiring manager is who are they what do they do at the company before trying to write a cover letter review your resume it it isn’t up to date take time to update it make sure it highlights experience relevant to the job posting proofread it carefully to catch any errors for help see our resume tutorial to help you as you write your cover letter make a list write the experience you have that matches the job qualifications don’t forget to include relevant volunteer experience a table can be a good way to organize this information keep the list available while you write there are different ways to find the information you’ll need to write a cover letter an excellent way to find information about a company is by using the internet find the company’s website and see what they say about themselves search for news about the company try to find people who work for the company try searching the company staff profiles or linkedin use library databases to gather company data some databases have tutorials to help you get started if you need more help ask a librarian another way to find information is through networking if you know people who work for a company ask them about it find out if they like working there or if there are things they think you should know even if you don’t know anyone who works there you may know people who are familiar with it ask around and see what you find if you need more help with your cover letter there are a number of resources and services available to you through the jcec the jcec has a large collection of resume guides available for you to use and check out a few that we recommend are two hundred and two great cover letters by michael betrus the complete guide to writing effective resume cover letters by kimberly sarmiento knock ’em dead cover letters by martin yate and the quick resume and cover letter book by michael farr the call numbers are listed to help you locate these materials in the jcec if you need help please ask a librarian in addition to printed material the jcec gives you access to some powerful online content view our other tutorials to learn more about cover letters professional email use local on line application systems and job related databases resume maker is a database that allows you to create and store resumes and cover letters it’s available at the library and from home with a clp library card the ask a manager blog addresses a variety of job related topics and issues from the point of view of a human resources professional to get some formatting ideas do a google image search for cover letter examples for even more help schedule an appointment for a resume and cover letter assistance called the jcec at 412 622 3133 for more information or to schedule a free appointment we offer a cover letter writing class through the pc center go online or call 412 622 3133 to find class times and to register for a class finally check out our skills for success speaker series different professionals bring their expertise to you check the events calendar for program dates using these guidelines you should be on your way to writing effective letters good luck with your job search if you have questions about this tutorial please contact the job and career education center at 412 622 3133 or jcecatcarnegielibrary. org thank you for watching this tutorial please help the job and career education center 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