Before you get to shake hands with or even speak to a hiring manager, your cover letter offers a first impression of your personality, skills and abilities during a job search. This vital document can make or break your chances of getting called in for an interview. Ensure that it's flawless by following these guidelines of what to include and what to leave out of your cover letter.
Do Not Include: A Generic Greeting
Never start your cover letter with "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sirs." Take the time to find out the hiring manager's name by searching the company's website or checking out its social media profiles. If all else fails, call the organization and ask for the name of the hiring manager so you can address your document directly to that person.
Do Include: An Attention-Getting Opening Paragraph
Begin your first paragraph by telling the hiring manager who you are and why you want to work for the organization. Discuss any professional achievements or accomplishments that make you an ideal candidate for the position. If you have a personal reference who works for the company, mention that person by name in the opening paragraph.
Do Not Include: False Information
A cover letter should emphasize your strengths, accomplishments and skills while downplaying your weaknesses, but it's important that you stick to factual information. Although sometimes the temptation to stretch the truth is there, resist it. Present your candidacy in the best possible light, but avoid exaggerations or flat-out lies. Even if these little, seemingly innocent falsehoods aren't discovered during the interview and you get the job, they may come back to haunt you later on in your career.
Do Include: Your Personal Story
Make sure your cover letter is as unique as you are. Stand apart from other job seekers by explaining what makes you the ideal candidate for the position. If you want to work for a huge toy manufacturer because you loved its products as a child, for instance, make sure you highlight this somewhere in your letter. Likewise, if you want to work for a prestigious university because your grandfather graduated from there, weave this fact into your story. Your personal story makes you memorable to the hiring manager.
Do Not Include: An Abundance of Information
Avoid overloading your cover letter with unnecessary information. Keep the length to one page with about three to four paragraphs. Each paragraph should be no longer than four sentences. Do not repeat information that is already contained in your resume.
Should Include: Value-Added Statements
Demonstrate for the hiring manager reading your cover letter how you can be an asset to the company. Focus on the most important duties of the position, and tell how you have the skills and experience necessary to fulfill the requirements.
Knowing what to include and what to leave out of your cover letter is the first step to crafting a quality document. After you draft your cover letter, read it several times to be sure that it's free if errors. Ask a co-worker, friend or family member to proofread the document to get a fresh perspective before mailing it off to a potential employer.
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