The In's and Out's of a Cover Letter

Nancy Anderson
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Although many employers might not be giving cover letters that much of an importance, it's always a good idea to send one along with your resume to ensure the best chance of success in your job search. A targeted cover letter helps to introduce you to a hiring manager while explaining why you're a great fit for the position. You probably shouldn't fret over every single word, but keep these cover letter basics in mind.


Your cover letter starts with a salutation to the person responsible for hiring you. Research the person's name by looking on the company's website or calling the HR department. The first paragraph delves into the position for which you're applying and how you found out about it. You could also mention the person who referred you to the position here, if anyone.

The next two paragraphs should expand on your resume with relevant details about your skills, qualifications and experience as they relate to the job at hand. Don't repeat anything from your resume, but explain what makes you the perfect candidate for the position. You could end these two paragraphs with a personal story or a statement or two about how excited you are about the opportunity to work for this employer.

The final paragraph of your cover letter should contain some kind of call to action, such as telling the employer how to contact you for further information. Once you get the meat of the letter in place, add a few personal touches that differentiate your story from those of other candidates.


A few key names can make your cover letter stand out and get noticed. If applicable, mention the person who recommended you for the position, or bring up a mutual contact who has an influence within the company or industry. Don't just drop a name here — this person should be a vital link in your network who can vouch for your expertise. This is where your careful networking pays off as you apply for positions.


Small details count in a cover letter. Use concrete examples and verifiable numbers from your past experience to tout your fit for this position. Use action verbs such as "collaborated," "improved," "researched" and "satisfied" when talking about your previous duties with former employers. Weave in details that showcase any personality traits that the employer is likely to appreciate. The key is to remain concise and use targeted words that clearly explain how your experience prepared you for this moment.

Your correspondence doesn't have to be a masterpiece, but you want to make sure it actually shows that you — above anyone else — are an ideal candidate for this particular job with this particular company.

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