How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

by Alice Feathers, M.A. TESOL, Professional Editor and Writer

Describe the Perfect Job Candidate—You!
Advertise your unique qualifications that no one else can offer by writing an effective cover letter!

Make yourself stand out
from all the other job seekers, so your potential employer will move on to the next step—reading your resume!

Get your foot in the door
and secure that all-important job interview by following the tips below and writing the perfect cover letter!

To mail or not to mail, that is the question!
Be the exception, not the rule! Most employers get bombarded with a ton of email cover letters with attached resumes. If you really want to stand out, mail your prospective boss a cover letter and resume by snail mail—three days to the pile on his desk will be better than a forgotten folder in his hard drive!

Use a font that is will attract the reader's eye!
Studies have shown that serif fonts such as Georgia or Times New Roman are easier to read in hard copy than a sans serif font such as Arial. The serif font uses small horizontal lines and flourishes that carry the eye along and make the text easier to read than the rigid vertical lines of a sans serif font.

Address the potential employer personally!
Find out the name of the person who is accepting resumes for the job you want. Create a more favorable impression by using his or her own name in your cover letter, rather than using an impersonal greeting such as 'To Whom It May Concern.' When addressing a woman, it is safer to use 'Ms.' rather than 'Miss' or 'Mrs.' When addressing a man, use 'Mr.' with no nicknames. Use a comma after the greeting, and make sure all names are spelled correctly!

Examples:

Dear Ms. Thomas-Bentley,

Dear Mr. Benson,

State which position you want and how you heard about it.
A large company may be hiring in several departments at once. In your cover letter, briefly state which position you are interested in and how you found out about it.

Example:

I am responding to your ad in the Daily Herald for an editor/proofreader.

Describe your most important qualifications—briefly!
Your resume should give your work history and qualifications in some detail. In your cover letter, briefly mention only the qualifications that are most impressive and pertain exactly to the job opening. Indented bullets or numbered lists of three or five items of fairly equal length are easy to read and show your qualifications at a glance.

Example:

I am the ideal candidate for this position because I have:

1. Three years experience as a proofreader/editor

2. A bachelor's degree in English, summa cum laude

3. Strong English skills in grammar and composition

Alternate Method! You can accomplish the same purpose in your cover letter with a well-worded sentence and not be restricted to making each item in your list a similar length.

Example:

I am the ideal candidate for this position because I not only have three years of experience as a professional proofreader, but I also have strong skills in every aspect of English grammar and composition, having graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English.

Offer to provide an impressive reference.
Rather than just offering your personal assurance of your high qualifications, mention someone with impressive credentials who has provided you with a positive reference in the past and who would be willing to do so again. If this is the first time you will be asking for a reference from someone, make sure you run the idea by them first before you use their name in your cover letter!

Example:

I also edited 36 articles that became two professional journals published by the university. Dr. Linda Hendricks, Chair of the Linguistics Dept., hired me and supervised both projects. She would be happy to provide you with a strong reference on my behalf.

Express your eagerness to meet with the reader.
Now that you have piqued the reader's interest, don't overdue it! Use your cover letter only as an overture to gain an interview.

Example:

I would be happy to meet with you at your convenience and answer any questions you might have.

Don't forget your contact information!
End with your phone number and email address so that the reader can choose the method that is most convenient. Mail your cover letter, using both a typed and hand-written signature. Enclose your resume.

Example:

Sincerely,

Janice Morton

Janice Morton

Enclosures

(555) 555-6954

Final Tips for the Perfect Cover Letter:
Make sure both your spelling and grammar construction are letter perfect! Don't ignore error signals from your word processing program such as green or red underlining. Right click and find out what the problem is. If you do decide to send your resume by email attachment, make sure you send it in the predominant Microsoft® Word format to avoid conversion problems on the receiving end.

Afterwards: Don't forget to follow up!
Call in three days and ask if your letter and resume were received. If so, ask if you could schedule an interview. If not, call back!

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