Cover Letters Are Less Scary When You Know All About Them

John Krautzel
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Much like Mark Twain's assertion, rumors of the death of the cover letter are greatly exaggerated. This seemingly outdated way to introduce yourself to an employer remains a vital part of your job search. Once you get to know this simple type of correspondence, you can write a good one without much effort.

Be Specific

The main point of a cover letter is to provide specific information as to why you're perfect for the job. Tailor each letter to the job description and company at hand. Each attribute you list should explain your best traits to the potential employer. Rather than repeat what's on your resume, talk about something not included in your vital document.

What to Include

Your cover letter should include brief statements about fact-based aspects of your past experiences. The actual facts belong on your resume, so don't use your cover letter to simply restate information you already provided. Your correspondence might represent the first impression a potential employer has of you, so your writing should identify several things.

First, tailor your cover letter to the organization, position and job description. In the opening sentences, mention the job title and the name of the person who referred you to the job. Following that, explain why you are qualified for the position, giving specific details. Explain how a complex situation in the past prepared you for the position. For example, explain how you used the skills needed for the position to help a previous company get out of a bind.

Next, explain which skills or abilities you possess best fits with the position. Explain how your management, sales or computer programming skills make you an ideal candidate for this job. Consider using a few top-level keywords found in the job description, and be sure to match your skills to the qualifications as much as possible.

Proper Formatting

The format of your correspondence should follow a few simple rules. Make sure you have a header that shows your basic contact information. Start your letter with a greeting, and do your best to grab the reader's attention in the first sentence. Use details in your writing. For example, rather than simply saying you have great leadership skills, explain how your management style solved a complex customer problem that ended up keeping a high-end client with your previous employer. Make sure you review your cover letter for spelling and grammar errors to ensure it's free of any mistakes that can set you back during your job search.

The point of a cover letter is to make a great first impression with potential employers. Tell a brief story in the letter that explains why you're the best candidate for the job. Make sure your story is specific to the position to capture and keep the attention of recruiters.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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