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Campus & Community, Career Development, College Tips

Five Tips for Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Jack McCallum
May 26, 2016

During a job search, you’ll find that some prospective employers insist on a cover letter to accompany a resume. In response, many people take a basic approach, writing an unexciting letter that doesn’t do much more than direct the hiring manager or HR department to the resume.

This isn’t enough. Employers look at the cover letter as a way to learn more about you. That’s why the letter is an ideal marketing tool to help you stand out in a crowded field of candidates. Here are some tips to help you craft an informative, attention-getting cover letter:

Address the cover letter to a specific person.

Whenever possible, do find the name of the person who will be reviewing the cover letter. Typically that person is in human resources, but you may need to do some research. Those reviewing the material you submit will be more impressed if you took the time to investigate. After you find the contact person’s name, don’t assume Gale is a woman or Charlie is a man. To play it safe, always go with their first and last name – don’t use titles such as “Mrs.” or “Mr.” if you’re not sure. Only use “To Thom It May Concern” as a last resort.

Personalize your content.
Don’t simply repeat the information listed on your resume; instead, market yourself. Discuss how you are the best person for the job, why you are excited to work for the organization, and why you and the organization are a great match. Don’t direct people to review your resume – this can come across as lazy. Instead, identify how you meet the needs they’ve expressed in their job posting.

Appearance matters.
This means no brightly colored paper (or messy e-mail stationary) or funky fonts. Keep it simple, easy to read, and in a style that reflects your professionalism.

Make sure there are no errors in your letter.
You must proofread and/or have someone else review your cover letter. Keep a sharp eye out for typos, grammar mistakes, misspellings, or incorrect assumptions. In other words, make sure Mr. Alex Kraft, HR Manager is the person to mail the letter to and not Ms. Alex Kraft, Production Manager.

Close your letter with a little action.
At the end of your cover letter, clearly state what you will do next, such as making contact in a week to see where they are in the hiring process. End your letter positively by letting the reader know you look forward to hearing from them soon, and add your phone number and email to make it easy for them to reach for the phone or send you an email.

By incorporating these tips into your cover letter, your applicant package will stand out from all the others. Check out the additional resources below for more tips on crafting an effective cover letter:

Monster (n.d.) “Cover letter examples & tips”. Retrieved from http://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/sample-cover-letter

The Guardian (Feb. 11, 2014). “Three excellent cover letter examples.” Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/careers/covering-letter-examples

Savetz Publishing, Inc. (2008-2016). “Cover Letter Examples.” Retrieved from https://www.coverletterexamples.net/

Virginia Tech (last updated July 2, 2015). “Cover letters: types and samples.” Retrieved from http://www.career.vt.edu/JobSearchGuide/CoverLetterSamples.html

Jack McCallum has been with the online business department at Herzing University since 2011. When not teaching, she serves as the President/Principal Consultant for HR Balance LLC—a consulting company specializing in human resources management, organizational development, leadership coaching, and training/development. She started HR Balance LLC in 2003 after years of serving in a leadership capacity for a variety of for-profit and non-profit organizations. A keynote speaker and presenter, Jack has served as an industry expert for radio and print media.

 


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