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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tips for Writing the Perfect Cover Letter

1. Use a business letter format.

Please be sure to follow the format listed in the CSO Handbook when writing a cover letter. Always include your contact information as well as the employer’s address and hiring contact name and title, if available.

2. Tailor the letter specifically to the employer.

Form letters do not get interviews. Unless the posting you are responding to is a blind job posting and no employer information is given, your letter should be specifically addressed to the employer and hiring contact. If no hiring contact is listed, contact the employer to see who the letter should be addressed to. If you are still unable to get a specific name, use “Dear Sir/Madam”. Never use “To Whom it May Concern”.

Also, be sure to state why you are particularly interested in the firm/organization and include statements that reflect your knowledge of the employer’s work.

3. Address their needs, not your own.

It really is about them, not you. The cover letter should focus on how your skills and experience will help them, not on how the job will enhance your skills and ultimate career goals.

4. Do not recite your resume.

You do not need to repeat your entire resume in your cover letter, only go over those experiences that are particularly relevant to the hiring criteria. Now is also your chance to highlight those strengths and skills that may not be evident from reading your resume.

5. Back up your statements with examples.

Just saying it doesn’t make it so. Always follow a statement about your skills with an illustrative example. For instance, after stating that you have strong multi-tasking abilities, give an example from a previous job where you successfully completed multiple projects at once.

6. Keep it concise.

Limit your cover letter to one page.

7. Proofread, proofread, proofread.

We cannot stress this enough. In addition to having your cover letter reviewed by a counselor in the Career Services Office, have one or two other people check it for typos. Especially make sure both the employer and hiring contact name are spelled correctly.

Other things to keep in mind:

Paper & Font - Should be same as resume (bond paper, same font and text size as resume.)
Enclosure - Include the word "Enclosure(s)" or "Attachment(s)" at the bottom indicating resume, writing sample, etc. enclosed.
Email Tip - When sending your cover letter by email, attach it to the email along with your resume. Do not make the main text of the email your "cover letter".

Still have questions? Post them in the comments or email the CSO!

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