Four Paragraphs Should Just About Do It

John Krautzel
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A cover letter tells your story to a prospective employer, and this correspondence often represents the first impression a hiring manager has about you. The key is to include the most important, relevant facts — and to do it concisely.

Practice writing a cover letter when you apply for jobs. Include the document with each application. Personalize each letter to every company where you submit your information, and especially address the correspondence to the hiring manager or the person in charge of hiring at a particular firm. Use keywords from the job description to tout your own abilities and skills as they relate to the position.

These generic tips are just the beginning. The meat of the ideal cover letter contains four paragraphs full of pertinent data that potential employers want to hear.

Introduce Yourself

The first, and relatively short, paragraph in your cover letter lists your qualifications right away. If this is a referral letter, mention who referred you to the position at this stage of the letter. A personal reference, combined with one or two sentences regarding qualifications, helps ensure someone keeps reading subsequent paragraphs.

Why This Job?

The second, and somewhat longer, paragraph explains to the firm why you want a particular position at that specific organization. Research aspects of the job and the company that impress you the most. Use Glassdoor or LinkedIn to find important details about the firm. Simply saying you are a computer scientist and you want a job at Google is not nearly specific enough. Instead, mention what project drew you to the job in the first place.

Describe Your Candidacy

The third, and longest, paragraph touts why you are the best fit for this role in the company. Show you understand what it takes to fulfill this position by citing examples from your past work experience. Read through the job description carefully to ensure your example represents something similar to what a prospective employer wants. Do not just mention the first couple of lines of the job description. Instead, try to find two or three aspects from the text that describe your skills the best. Expand on these details using keywords to help capture the attention of an employer.

Sum It Up

The fourth, and shortest, paragraph sums up your qualifications, offers references and thanks the person for his time. Include a follow-up statement saying you look forward to hearing from the company or from the person to whom you addressed the cover letter.

Each cover letter does not follow the same formula. However, the contents of the letter are more important than the format. Grab someone's attention with four paragraphs of the most relevant information possible. This technique proves you can tailor your needs to a firm, even in a short letter.

Photo courtesy of Simon Howden at



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