Creating an effective cover letter can be an intimidating chore. After all, it is never easy to sum yourself up in just a few paragraphs. Instead, think about your cover letter as a way to get your foot in the door so that you can really sell yourself at the interview.
First, you need to make sure that you include your relevant professional skills in the cover letter. That may seem obvious, but many people get ahead of themselves writing about their hobbies, past experiences, future goals and so on. While some of those aspects of your life do deserve to be mentioned, you must not forget the real reason for the cover letter: to get hired. You are a potential investment, so you need to make the organization realize your worth.
Write a succinct cover letter that clearly states exactly what you can bring to the table, and how it would directly benefit the company. The hiring manager should be convinced that refusing to hire you would be a poor decision that would cost the company money. Outline your experiences, but also tie them into how they pertain to the specific job you are trying to get.
An effective cover letter must be written directly to the company, and it must contain relevant information. The vast majority of hiring managers can immediately recognize a template form letter, so avoid generic boilerplate cover letters at all costs. Write about what you admire about the organization and why you want to work there; mention how you were inspired by a decision the CEO made or how you use the company's products daily. By associating yourself with the company immediately, you make the hiring manager far more likely to consider your job application.
Finally, let your personality show through. This letter is not a defined job application or a stiff resume. Without being excessive, write about who you are and who you hope to become. The hiring manager will read your cover letter to try to get a picture of the type of person you are to see if you are an appropriate fit. While the face-to-face interview is certainly the time to really turn on the charm, your cover letter can be the gateway to getting that phone call.
As you write about yourself, remember to cater your tone to fit the organization. For example, a little humor is appreciated if you are applying for an internship at your favorite satirical comedy Web show, but it might not go over well at a law firm. Remember your audience, and highlight your relevant interests.
Keep your cover letter direct and precise. Too many words can be an immediate ticket to the wastebasket. Make sure every sentence is relevant and to the point without sounding robotic. Take the time to write a cover letter that you are proud of; after all, you may not get a second chance.
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