Career Tips

How to Sell Yourself Using an Effective Cover Letter

Date Posted: 10/14/2014

In this age of online resume submissions, virtual job fairs and mobile job hunting tools, applying for a job is much easier.  Considering this, do companies still expect applicants to send covering letters with their resumes?

The short answer is ‘YES’.  Cover letters that are written and presented professionally are still necessary, especially in a tough and competitive market.

Consider your cover letter as the 60-second advertisement for your résumé.  It is your first attempt at grabbing the recruiter’s attention to make them want to look at your résumé.  Your letter should be tailor-made based on what the employer wants and needs, and not what YOU want.  Can the employer easily visualize the benefit of hiring you?

Here are some tips to guide you in writing your cover letter:

1.  The Date.  Do not forget to include the date on your cover letter.  Most applicants commit the error of not indicating a date when sending a formal letter.  This shows poor attention to detail.

2.  The Address Line.  Do your homework to show you are interested in the position and in the company.  Find the company business address and the hiring manager’s name if you can and use it in the salutation, i.e. Dear Mr. XXX.  If you are using the decision-maker’s name, make sure the name is spelled correctly!  If you are applying to a blind ad, say “To the Hiring Manager.”

3.  The Body of your letter. Your covering letter should be no longer than three or four brief paragraphs.

First paragraph.  Explain why you are writing by saying how you found out about the job vacancy.
Second to Third.  Explain why you are a good candidate for what they need while making sure you do not shamelessly promote yourself.  Use more ‘You’ or ‘Your Company’ than ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘Myself’.  This communicates to the reader that you are more interested in THEM and not only in YOURSELF.

4.  Closing.  Indicate a friendly and professional follow-up intent, like, “I am looking forward to meeting you next week and exploring how I can help ABC Co. achieve its business goals”. Sign off with a simple “Yours sincerely,” or “Thank you for your time in reviewing my qualifications.”

5.  Proof-read your letter and make sure there are no typographical or grammatical errors.  Use your word processing tools: spell-check, capitalization, simple and standard font styling.

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