Writing Effective Cover Letters

A glowing resume is a first step toward securing your dream job, but the cover letter is almost equally important. Since the employer reads this before he looks at your resume, you have to give him a reason to continue.

The secret to great cover letters lies in your ability to write sales copy. You may not be promoting a product or service, but you are certainly marketing yourself, and you must stick out above all of the other cover letters on your prospective employer’s desk. If you are completely lost when it comes to this task, try the following; you might find that it works.

1. Prep

This is an optional part of the process, but it might help to focus your mind on the subject at hand. Many people have trouble coming up with what to write as they go; if you fall into that category, you might try some pre-writing warm up your brain and your writing skills.

Sit down at your desk with a piece of paper and a pen. Begin to jot down ideas for what to put in your cover letter. Think along the lines of your strengths, skills, and capabilities. Make sure that all of these things relate to the job for which you are applying (i.e., if you are applying for a job as a customer service representative, there is no reason to include ‘fishing’ as one of your skills). Try not to be redundant, and if you begin to drift off-track, simply stop.

2. Categorize

Take your list, grab another sheet of paper, and jot down these four categories: Interest, Skills, Candidacy, and Conclusion. Leave several lines of space between each category. In the blank space, write down what you would like to say.

Interst – this is the section of the cover letter in which you tell the employer why you are interested in this position. Briefly describe your experience in the job qualifications, and let the employer know what you think is special about the company and/or the job description.

Skills – here is where your first list comes in handy. Pick the top five or six skills, and enter them in the blank lines. You can organize them later.

Candidacy – in these blanks, jot down the reasons that you would be excellent for this position. They should describe why you would be a better candidate any any other applicant, and should highlight your top one-or-two skills.

Conclusion – list any parting words you would like to leave the prospective employer.

Voila! You now have the four paragraphs of your cover letter.

Take the four categories, and mold them into sentences describing the concepts behind each. Make sure that you sound professional and interested in the job.

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