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Cover Letter Writing Tips

More than just window dressing for your resume, a cover letter is like a partner to that all-important document. Many employers today won't even look at your resume if you don't submit it with a cover letter. Your cover letter gives employers the opportunity to evaluate your ability to communicate -- do you know the proper form for a business letter? Can you string together coherent sentences? Are you able to express yourself well on paper? Your cover letter will give employers insight into all of these things.

Here are some things to consider when putting your cover letter together:

  • Your cover letter should draw employers to your resume. Don't clutter it with needless facts.
  • Keep it brief -- no employer wants to read your life's history.
  • Tailor it to the position and company to which you are applying -- a cover letter shouldn't be "canned."
  • Open by explaining why you are writing and where you heard about the opportunity -- you may want to say something similar to "your recent Daily News advertisement caught my attention."
  • Be sure to say why you think you would be a good match for the position. If the advertisement lists several traits or skills the employer wants to see in job applicants, reference those skills in your letter and say how you exemplify them. Mention traits that will set you apart from other candidates.
  • Refer the employer to your resume -- "you can see from my resume that I have the experience you are looking for" may be a good way to do so. Experiment with your own wording.
  • Remember to sign your cover letter.
  • Note "enclosure" or "enc." several lines after your signature if your resume is enclosed.

 Helpful Hints for Writing Cover Letters

  • Each letter should be an original: no photocopies.
  • Address the employer by name and title. Research names on organizations' web sites or in the library. You can also call the company.
  • The goal of your opening is to capture the employer's attention. You may want to refer to a mutual contact who referred you for the position or present a reason (e.g., qualities and skills) that the employer should consider you the "right fit" for the organization. Remember, an employer may receive hundreds of cover letters. You need to create enough interest in your opening that the employer feels compelled to continue reading.
  • Make your cover letters concise. A cover letter should be one page with three to six paragraphs.
  • The body of your cover letter should highlight your experiences and accomplishments. Focus on the needs of the employer to whom you are writing. You want the reader to believe that hiring you will mean improved services, innovative ideas, greater efficiency, or increased productivity.
  • Your cover letter should ask for something--most often an interview. State how you plan to follow up with the employer.
  • Your closing should briefly summarize the body of the letter. Leave the reader with an important thought to remember you by.
  • Check and recheck your cover letter for errors. Look closely for mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Have someone else proofread and critique your cover letter.
  • Select quality bond paper for your final copy. The paper you select should coordinate with the paper you use for your résumé.
  • Use a letter-quality or laser printer and black type.
  • Fold and mail your cover letter and your résumé in a matching envelope or mail them flat in a 9" x 12" white or manila envelope.

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