Help! I Don't Know What to Say in the Cover Letter!

Nancy Anderson
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The way you write your cover letter can really make a difference in the results you get in your job search. Well-written cover letters tend to make hiring managers take notice of your skills, while a lackluster cover letter makes it difficult for hiring managers to choose you for an interview over dozens — or even hundreds — of other applicants. If you aren't sure what to say in your cover letter, follow these tips.

Start your cover letter just as you would any other correspondence. If you are printing a letter and mailing it to a potential employer, your contact information, the date of the letter and the employer's contact information go at the top of the page. For an email cover letter, you don't need to include the employer's contact information or the date, but you should put your contact information below your signature. Open the letter with an appropriate greeting, such as "Dear Ms. Smith."

The body paragraphs of your cover letter come next. The first few sentences of the body are the most important, as they are the first thing a hiring manager reads. If you have a contact inside the organization, mention his or her name in the first paragraph. Be as enthusiastic as possible to show the hiring manager you are really interested in the job. If you think it's appropriate for the organization, start your body paragraphs with an anecdote that explains why you want to work there. If you have been a long-time customer, talk about how your positive experiences made you want to apply for a job with the company.

The middle paragraphs of a cover letter should make a direct connection between your qualifications and the requirements of the job. Use these paragraphs to convince the hiring manager that you have the exact knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for success in a particular role. Be sure to mention any special achievements you've made in your industry. If your employer named you employee of the month or gave you an award for excellence, mention it in your cover letter.

It's important to be very precise when telling a hiring manager about your achievements. If you developed a system that increased productivity for one of your previous employers, make sure you quantify the achievement by telling the hiring manager exactly how much productivity was increased. "Increased departmental productivity by 23 percent" has a bigger impact than "increased departmental productivity." Do the same thing for achievements such as increasing customer retention, reducing departmental absenteeism and increasing customer satisfaction scores.

The content of your cover letter should tell hiring managers who you are and why you are a great employee. Knowing how to write a great cover letter makes every job search less stressful and more rewarding. Practice writing cover letters as often as you can. Make sure every paragraph of your cover letter positions you as an excellent employee and makes hiring managers want to know more about you.

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