The cover letter is your first impression made to a potential employer. It is your chance to show your interest in the company, highlight your experience and convey that you are the right fit for the job. Effective cover letters are tailored specifically for the company, with a thorough explanation of why you are a good fit, citing information from your resume that relates to the job description.
The Header and Introduction
Include your full name, address, phone number and email address in the header of your cover letter and resume. Avoid using flashy fonts and colors, and always address your letter to a person. If the job posting does not list a contact, call the human resources department and ask to whom you should address the letter. Keep it formal and avoid salutations like "Hey." Stick with "Dear Ms. Johnson" or "To Mr. Roberts."
The Heart of the Letter
Your opening paragraph explains what you are applying for and how you learned about it. If possible, Forbes magazine recommends putting the name of mutual acquaintances in the first sentence. For example, "John Smith recommended I apply for the marketing manager position." Next, introduce yourself and explain why you are interested in the company, including any details you know about its services. Showing that you researched the company shows enthusiasm for the position.
Keep a copy of the job description in front of you while composing your letter. Discuss your qualifications as they relate to the position. Your goal is to explain why you are perfect for the job. Cite aspects of your background that would be of interest to the employer, including unique qualities such as expert knowledge of computer applications, foreign languages and writing skills.
What to Avoid
Proofread your letter multiple times. Any flaws in grammar and spelling will be interpreted as poor communication skills. Avoid using "I" to start every sentence, exclamation points, short sentences and run-on sentences. Do not ask about salary or benefits.
Avoid weak closing statements such as, "I look forward to hearing from you." Instead use a statement such as, "I look forward to meeting you and discussing how my background and experience can contribute to your company."
Lisa Hope is a professional writer and entrepreneur. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism, specializing in online media, and a master's in mass communications specializing in social media, both from the University of Florida. She is a professor of communications, a novelist, and the founder of a firm that specializes in resume review.