The Essential Guide to Cover Letters

Nancy Anderson
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Your cover letter is a crucial part of your overall job application. While some hiring managers don't give it much more than a passing glance, those that do read it look for clues into who you really are and what you can do for their company. You need to construct an organized, thorough cover letter that persuades the reader to want to know more. Here is what you need to do, paragraph by paragraph.


You must address your cover letter to a specific person. If you open with "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir/Madam," your entire job application is likely to end up in the trash. Not taking the time to find out the hiring manager's name shows you are careless and don't take this opportunity seriously. In general, the job posting will list the contact person's name, but if it doesn't, poke around the company's website or social media page for more clues. You may even have to call and speak to the office manager or receptionist, but it's worth the extra effort.

First Paragraph

Don't waste precious time with overused cliches or generic statements here. Get right to the point — clearly state the position you are applying for and why you'd be a perfect fit for it. Express your enthusiasm about the opportunity to work for the company, and make a connection between your skills and the job description.

Second Paragraph

The second paragraph is all about the details. Discuss your relevant experiences and accomplishments in greater detail, and relate them directly to the company's needs. Use statistics where you can, and provide interesting examples of what you brought to your previous employers. This is your chance to expand upon the highlighted areas of your resume and provide a background story that brings it all into focus.

Third Paragraph and Closing

In the third paragraph, it's time to wrap it all up. Reiterate how your skills and experience can help the company achieve its goals, and talk with passion about how much you really want to work for this employer. Thank the reader for his time and consideration, and include details on how you plan to follow up with him in the next week or so. Don't forget to include your contact information, as well as links to your online profiles or portfolios, in case the hiring manager wants to know more.

Your cover letter is often the first thing the hiring manager sees, and it serves as an introduction into who you are and what you can do. Make every word count by constructing a clear outline for each paragraph and including relevant information about your skills as they relate to the company's needs. The more compelling and persuasive your cover letter is, the greater chance that you'll get a callback for that dream job.

Photo courtesy of bulldogza at


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