Tips to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

Cover Letter : A little known fact about cover letters will make you look at them in a different light.

Job Interview ProcessAt AskStudent, we covered resume and job interview tips and suggestions before. We talked about how to write the perfect resume and also covered writing the perfect cover letter. This article expands on writing and improving your cover letter.

The truth is out there, and it’s alarming. Of the dozens of cover letters you’ve spent hours perfecting, very few will ever be read. Companies and recruiters don’t have the time to read everything you send them. Instead, they scan a resume for keywords like Java, computer science major or Nobel Prize winner. If the company’s managers like your resume, they might read your cover letter.

You still have to be careful when writing your cover letter. Your resume and cover letter work in tandem on a mission to infiltrate a company and secure a position. Each has a special role: the resume contains the information a company wants to know about you, while the cover letter tells the company what you know about it. Recognizing the cover letter’s role is the trick to writing an effective one.

The cover letter also demonstrates your writing ability, your grammar skills and your determination. Deficiencies or mistakes could result in a quick rejection.

Start by finding out who should receive your letter. Never begin a letter with “To Whom It May Concern.” You can find contact information from the job description or the company’s Web site, but the best way is to call and ask who will make the hiring decision.

Before you write your letter, do some research. Investigate your prospective employer’s Web page, or request an information kit from the shareholder services or marketing department. You can get the skinny from the company’s annual report and its letter to the shareholders. You’ll learn about the company’s position in its industry, who it competes with and how it runs its business.

Start your letter with a brief introduction stating the position you’re applying for and your qualifications. Then change the letter’s focus from you to the company.

Put your research to work. A simple and honest compliment about what you admire about the company is a good way to show what you know. Include a few examples of how you can contribute to the company’s success. (You’re proving you have the resourcefulness and motivation to do your research.)

Writing the cover letter is not a test of what you’ve learned about the company. Don’t feel obligated to include everything you’ve learned. There are many ways to write a good letter. Draft and revise yours until you’re comfortable with it.

Keep it short — no more than one page. Few people have the time to read long letters, unless they’re from friends.

In the last paragraph, tell the company what your next step will be. Include your phone number and ask the recipient to call if he or she has questions. Companies will rarely call immediately, so explain in your letter that you will call to check on your application’s status and arrange an interview. Give the recipient a week to review your application, but make sure you’re getting the attention you want. Always ask to arrange an interview.

You need to maintain momentum or your application will be buried under the dozens of new ones that arrive every day.

It might seem like a great deal of work just for a brief letter, but keep in mind that your efforts aren’t used in the cover letter alone. By learning about the company as you write the cover letter, you’re preparing yourself for the next stage of the hiring process: the interview.

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