Guidelines to Follow for Your Cover Letter

John Krautzel
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A well-written cover letter gives hiring managers a sense of your personality and makes it easier to determine if you are a good fit for a particular job. Unfortunately, many applicants have yet to perfect their cover letter writing skills. Make a great first impression on potential employers by following these cover letter guidelines.

Address your cover letter to a specific person whenever possible. If the job advertisement doesn't list the hiring manager's name, do a little detective work. Call the company and ask who is accepting applications for the job opening. If you know the hiring manager's title, check the company website to see if you can find a name to match. If you aren't sure if the hiring manager is a man or a woman, err on the side of caution by using the person's full name in your greeting. Writing "Dear Alex Jones" is a lot better than addressing the letter to Mr. Jones and finding out later that Alex Jones is a woman.

A strong opening paragraph sets the tone for your entire cover letter. If your first paragraph is weak, the hiring manager may not even read the whole thing. The first sentence should explain why you are a great candidate for the job. Capture attention by telling the hiring manager if you have a lot of experience in the industry or have a specialized certification that makes you an extra-valuable candidate. Use the rest of the paragraph to explain how your skills might benefit the company if you are hired to fill the open position.

A lot of job seekers ignore one of the most basic cover letter guidelines, which is to make your letter all about the employer. You need to talk about your qualifications, but you also need to demonstrate why you would be an asset to the company. If you have a lot of financial experience, for example, you might include a statement about how you can save the company money, help the company avoid internal theft, and ensure the company is in compliance with all auditing rules and regulations.

Refer to the job advertisement several times while you write your cover letter. If the hiring manager did a good job of writing the ad, you should be able to figure out the most important qualifications for the job. Be sure to address each qualification from the ad in your cover letter, or the hiring manager might not realize your qualifications are an exact match for what the company is seeking.

Writing a cover letter isn't always fun, but it's a crucial aspect of the process when you're applying for jobs. If you want to make a good impression, make sure your cover letter is addressed to the right person and has a strong opening paragraph. The body should closely match the qualifications outlined in the job advertisement.

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