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Compose and Send a Cover Letter That Lands You an Interview
Raising children while looking for a new job is a juggling act, a balancing feat of epic proportions. The right cover letter can simplify and streamline your path to job-search success. Unless you met a hiring manager at a job fair or other event, your cover letter is the first contact you have with your prospective boss and your first chance to shine. When a manager sits down with a stack of dozens or hundreds of resumes, you want yours to stand out from the crowd. Something about your cover letter must seem different, more interesting, more personalized and polished than all the others. Personally address and write an engaging cover letter that is likely to land you the interview you have been hoping for.
Choose a Layout and Customize It
To help you get started, Microsoft Office offers several templates for formatting a cover letter. Choose a format that features your name in large type at the top of the page, as well as a place to include all of your contact information. Take a few minutes to personalize the layout to stand out from the crowd. Play with fonts and text sizes, but keep it polished and professional.
Address Your Letter Properly
You want the person reading your cover letter to feel noticed, valued and recognized. Always be as specific and personal as you possibly can. "Dear" is the customary greeting, followed by the name of the person in charge of hiring. Sometimes the job listing states whom to address the cover letter to. In this case, be careful to use the exact name as listed, followed by a comma. For example:
- Dear Dr. James L. Peterson, Sr.,
- Dear Rev. Susan G. Johnson, M.Div.,
- Dear Ms. Julie Grant,
Sometimes, a committee or two professionals will review your cover letter. In this case, specify it in your address.
- Dear Humanities Professor Search Committee,
- Dear Dr. Gary Jamison and Dr. Rachel Jacobs,
Other times, a listing gives you no indication of who is doing the hiring. In this case, search the company's website or call them to find out more information. If the ad states not to call and the company website lists no additional information, you might have to use a generic greeting. Even when you're generic, you can still personalize it as much as possible. For example:
- Dear Head Recruiter,
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear Head of Engineering,
- Dear Smith Company Manager,
- Dear Sociology Department Chair,
Be as personal as you can, and the recipient is likely to notice and appreciate your efforts enough to see what you have to say in the rest of your cover letter and maybe even call you in for an interview.
Compose an Engaging Cover Letter
Once you have figured out how to address your cover letter, writing it might seem like a piece of cake. Get your kids busy with a quiet activity and spend a few minutes writing a brief and to-the-point letter. The first paragraph should highlight who you are and what you have to offer the company. For example:
- As the founder of a small nonprofit that serves birthing women, I'm greatly interested in the nonprofit management position listed on your website. I agree that new mothers need more options for working from home while caring for their children, and I am committed to making that happen.
- As the retail manager for Joe's Diner, I'm excited to offer my services for your customer relations manager position. Your vision to make each customer feel valued and cared for meshes with the strategy I implement at my current company.
The second paragraph should highlight your top two attributes and accomplishments and not simply restate your resume. Hiring managers want to see results and numbers to back up your claims. For example:
- My skills for listening and serving others have created a track record I feel grateful for. Over the past three years, I have served over 300 birthing women, and 97 percent of them report feeling satisfied with their childbirth and postpartum experiences. In 2015, I was awarded a humanitarian award for low-income childbirth services.
- I am a servant-leader with a heart for responding to customer needs. In 2010, I implemented a customer satisfaction survey and made changes in the top three areas of concern. Since that time, retention has increased by 25 percent, and profits have grown by 12 percent, allowing for a fair and generous wage for all employees.
In your closing paragraph, restate why you are a good match for the position and say that you are looking forward to meeting during an interview. Some people restate their contact information in the closing paragraph. Remember to thank the reader for his or her time and close your letter with "Sincerely," followed by your signature and printed name. Be sure to have someone proofread and edit your cover letter before you send it off.
Send Your Cover Letter
Print the final draft of your cover letter onto high-quality stationery. Using 100 percent cotton paper in varying textures, thicknesses or neutral colors can be eye-catching amidst the sea of plain printer paper resumes. When possible, match the envelope paper to the letter paper. Always use a large envelope so you don't have to fold your cover letter and resume. Neatly print your return address in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope. If you use a return address label, make sure it's plain and professional. Neatly address the envelope to the attention of the person you want to receive the letter. For example:
Attn: Dr. Olivia Bradfor, M.Div.
123 Main Street
Concord, NJ 1234
To make your envelope look professional, opt to use a computer-printed address label. Send your resume via standard first-class mail, or pay a little more for tracking and signature confirmation, so you know when your envelope arrives and when to follow up.
Anne Kinsey is a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and missionary, residing in rural North Carolina. She is the founding executive director of Love Powered Life, a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating loving community for trafficking survivors and their families. Anne has enjoyed writing for publications like Our Everyday Life, Bizfluent, Career Trend, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle. She resides in rural North Carolina with her husband, three children and a house full of furry friends.